Aimed at making the task of predicting renewable output easier for the industry, researchers have created an interactive web tool to estimate the quantum of energy that could be generated by wind or solar farms at any location. The researchers have already used the tool, called Renewables.ninja, to estimate current Europe-wide solar and wind output. “Renewables.ninja has already allowed us to answer important questions about the current and future renewable energy infrastructure across Europe and in the UK, and we hope others will use it to further examine the opportunities and challenges for renewables in the future,” said Stefan Pfenninger from ETH Zurich in Switzerland.
To test the model, Pfenninger and Iain Staffell from College London used the tool to estimate the productivity of all wind farms planned or under construction in Europe for the next 20 years. Wind and solar energies have a strong dependence on weather conditions, and these can be difficult to integrate into national power systems that requires consistency. If there is excess power generated by all energy sources, then some supplies have to be turned off.
Currently, wind and solar power generators are the easiest to switch on and off, so they are often the first to go, meaning the power they generate can be wasted. Renewables.ninja uses 30 years of observed and modelled weather data from organisations such as NASA to predict the wind speed likely to influence turbines and the sunlight likely to strike solar panels at any point on the Earth during the year, the researchers said in a paper published in the journal Energy. These figures are combined with manufacturer’s specifications for wind turbines and solar panels to give an estimate of the power output that could be generated by a farm placed at any location.