Renewables ninja calculates power availability anywhere in the world

September 08, 2016 // By Nick Flaherty
Global Renewable energy model
Researchers in London and Zurich have developed a model for calculating the power available from renewable sources anywhere in the world

The tool, called Renewables.ninja, aims to make the task of predicting renewable output easier for both academics and industry.

The team from Imperial College London and ETH Zürich has already used it to estimate current Europe-wide solar and wind output, and companies such as the German electrical supplier RWE are using it to test their own models of output. The model 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.

To test the model, Dr Iain Staffell, from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial, and Dr Stefan Pfenninger, who is now at ETH Zürich, have used Renewables.ninja to estimate the productivity of all wind farms planned or under construction in Europe for the next 20 years. Their results are published today in the journal Energy.

They found that wind farms in Europe current have an average 'capacity factor' of around 24 per cent, which means they produce around a quarter of the energy that they could if the wind blew solidly all day every day.

This number is a factor of how much wind is available to each turbine. The study found that because new farms are being built using taller turbines placed further out to sea, where wind speeds are higher, the average capacity factor for Europe should rise by nearly a third to around 31 percent.

This would allow three times as much energy to be produced by wind power in Europe compared to today, not only because there are more farms, but because those farms can take advantage of better wind conditions.