Reaching Wind Resource Limits? An examination of energy resource quality trends in wind turbine projects
This paper analyzes country-level wind resource utilization trends. We find that leading countries with significant wind generation capacity deployed, such as Germany or Denmark have started exhausting their prime onshore wind sites. As projects increased in average size, the mean wind speed of the locations where wind turbine projects are deployed decreases exponentially over time. We find that this decrease is present for both on-shore and off-shore project and that it correlates with the wind resource distribution of the country. This phenomenon is only observable after a critical deployed capacity has been reached and the limits of the highest quality resources in a given country are neared. For countries with large territories, such as the United States and China, the situation is more nuanced and requires regional disaggregation. A lower resource quality also leads to correspondingly lower energy return on energy investment that may be counterbalanced by lowering the energy intensity of turbine manufacturing and installation. One must therefore take this into consideration when designing long-term sustainable energy transitions for countries, as well as globally.