Maximising the Carbon Impact of Wind Power

Supergen Wind Challenge 2015 – Maximising the Carbon Impact of Wind Power

MSc Climate Change Programme New 2016

Principal Investigator: Professor Richard Green

Researchers: Dr Iain Staffell, Dr Adam Hawkes (Chemical Engineering), Professor Goran Strbac (Electrical and Electronic Engineering)

Funder: EPSRC

Duration: November 2015 – October 2017

The UK is increasingly invested in wind power in recent years, and a key for this is to reduce carbon emissions, but research into how effective wind power has been, or will be, at achieving this is lacking. The simple question of ‘how much carbon dioxide does a wind farm save?’ depends not just on how much power the farm produces, but on how the rest of the electricity system responds to its production.

This project examines the relationship between wind farms and national carbon emissions in order to maximise the savings they provide. To assess the emissions-saving-potential of wind now and in the future, we compare this with other countries and explore affecting factors. We will deliver a multi-scale assessment of carbon impact using econometric and statistical models to estimate impact, engineering and market-led power systems modelling to explore equilibrium, and then combine these models with life cycle assessment (LCA) to estimate future whole-systems impact.

Ultimately this project will identify whether changes in policy or industry practice could make wind power more effective in displacing carbon emissions, and hence more cost-effective in decarbonising the UK.

Key Research Questions:

  • How can we quantify the output patterns of both transmission- and distribution-connected wind farms, now and in the future? We will perform a rigorous assessment of current savings in UK carbon dioxide emissions using in wind power, and the factors that have influenced these savings. This will result in a life cycle assessment of wind power in the UK, extending current practice to include the impacts it will have on the rest of the power system.
  • Can we compute future emissions savings using two contrasting techno-economic models? This approach accounts for both a different plant mix in the future, and that large-scale investment in wind will affect the profitability of building other station types.
  • How well placed is the UK to mitigate carbon emissions with wind power relative to other countries and what are the drivers of emissions? This research stream will identify future tipping points at which savings could noticeably change, and make recommendations for policy. 

Research Partners

  • Department of Energy and Climate Change
  • National Grid PLC
  • Committee on Climate Change
  • Circular Ecology
  • Energy Research Partnership ERP
  • Grantham Institute
  • Haymarket Media Group Ltd
  • BG Group