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How can we secure stable green energy under future extreme weather conditions?

Climate is changing, and this will affect future energy systems based on solar and wind. But how? A new research project at Aarhus University will focus on this with a Sapere Aude grant from Independent Research Fund Denmark.

Associate Professor Marta Victoria. Photo: Claus Lillevang for the Independent Research Fund Denmark.

In February 2021, the state of Texas was hit by wave of cold weather lasting two weeks. The event was without precedent, and the Texan energy supply, which is primarily dependent on wind, coal and gas, was completely unprepared for this kind of extreme weather.

Due to the cold weather, gas pipes and some wind turbines froze, and since this was accompanied by a period with low wind speeds, it caused two-week-long power outages in 4.5 million homes. The incident cost USD 24 billion and 262 people lost their lives. It was the worst winter-weather disaster ever in the US.

The European energy network is better interconnected and prepared to deal with such events, but in a future with increasing climate change and more extreme weather, such events will very likely occur again.

So how do we ensure a stable future energy system, if this will be based on energy sources that may well be sustainable and renewable, but that are also dependent on local weather conditions?

A new research project at Aarhus University will now try to explain.

"We can't build an energy system that takes account of everything. That would be extremely costly. So, what do we do if there is a long period without wind and without sun, and with a high demand for energy, and how can we adapt the system without over-dimensioning it? We need to find out what we have to be prepared for when the weather changes as a result of climate change," says Associate Professor Marta Victoria from the Department of Mechanical and Production Engineering at Aarhus University, who is heading the project.

She has just received a prestigious Sapere Aude-grant from Independent Research Fund Denmark (DFF) of DKK 6.2 million. Her project is called EXTREMES (Highly renewable energy systems under extreme weather events) and it aims to describe periods of extreme weather using statistics, and to design strategies to ensure that an energy system with a very high proportion of solar and wind energy is reliable, even under extreme weather conditions.

"How long will the worst period of low wind or solar production be? How many times a year will this happen? What is the worst period we can expect within a decade? Or a century? And what conditions should we adapt the system to? As a rule, there’s a backup, but in the project we’ll try to take into account situations where several adverse events happen at the same time, and where spatial and temporal fluctuations can be hard to predict," she says.

The project starts in spring 2023 and will run for four years.

Sapere Aude grants are awarded by Independent Research Fund Denmark to talented early-career researchers to enable them to develop and strengthen their own research ideas and establish themselves as research directors with the foundation's financial assistance.

This year, Independent Research Fund Denmark has awarded Sapere Aude grants to 41 researchers following 356 applications. Of these, 12 recipients are from Aarhus University: The 41 researchers share a total of DKK 247 million.


Associate Professor Marta Victoria
Department of Mechanical and Production Engineering, Aarhus University
Mail: mvp@mpe.au.dk
Tel.: +4522631595