U.S. Wind Farms Could Get La Niña Help

Can the long-term climactic variability of wind power can be anticipated? The answer to that question has become increasingly valuable, as wind farms seek to factor such major fluctuations into their long-term financial planning.

A new study from 3Tier, a company specializing in renewable energy information services, says ‘yes.’ The study presents, for the first time, wind maps for the U.S. that suggest that wind power production is likely to be above average in the first quarter of 2011 across much of the continental U.S., due to a strong La Niña event in the Pacific Ocean.

3Tier Wind Map

image via 3Tier

According to 3Tier, the La Niña phenomenon is caused by a cooling of surface water temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, while El Niño creates an opposite, warming effect. Both are phases of a larger weather pattern known as ENSO, or the El Niño / Southern Oscillation.

If the La Niña pattern persists as predicted by the global forecast modeling community, the only wind farms in the continental U.S. that will not have an increased average output due to higher winds are sections of southern Arizona, Nevada, and California and pockets near the Canadian border from Minnesota to Montana. 3Tier Vice President of Advanced Applications Pascal Storck noted that this will be a welcome change from the first quarter of 2010, when many of the U.S. wind projects experienced below average wind speeds due to a strong El Niño effect.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.