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SN Applied Sciences








Wind and solar electricity generation is projected to expand substantially over the next several decades due both to rapid cost declines as well as regulation designed to achieve climate targets. With increasing reliance on wind and solar generation, future energy systems may be vulnerable to previously underappreciated synoptic-scale variations characterized by low wind and/or surface solar radiation. Here we use western North America as a case study region to investigate the historical meteorology of weekly-scale “droughts” in potential wind power, potential solar power and their compound occurrence. We also investigate the covariability between wind and solar droughts with potential stresses on energy demand due to temperature deviations away human comfort levels. We find that wind power drought weeks tend to occur in late summer and are characterized by a mid-level atmospheric ridge centered over British Columbia and high sea level pressure on the lee side of the Rockies. Solar power drought weeks tend to occur near winter solstice when the seasonal minimum in incoming solar radiation co-occurs with the tendency for mid-level troughs and low pressure systems over the U.S. southwest. Compound wind and solar power drought weeks consist of the aforementioned synoptic pattern associated with wind droughts occurring near winter solstice when the solar resource is at its seasonal minimum. We find that wind drought weeks are associated with high solar power (and vice versa) both seasonally and in terms of synoptic meteorology, which supports the notion that wind and solar power generation can play complementary roles in a diversified energy portfolio at synoptic spatiotemporal scales over western North America.


Climatology, Electricity grid, Extreme weather, Heat waves, QG theory, Renewable energy, Solar drought, Solar power, Synoptic meteorology, Teleconnections, Wind drought, Wind power

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Meteorology and Climate Science