Significant multidecadal variability in German wind energy generation
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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- Geophysical Institute 
Wind energy has seen large deployment and substantial cost reductions over the last decades. Further ambitious upscaling is urgently needed to keep the goals of the Paris Agreement within reach. While the variability in wind power generation poses a challenge to grid integration, much progress in quantifying, understanding and managing it has been made over the last years. Despite this progress, relevant modes of variability in energy generation have been overlooked. Based on long-term reanalyses of the 20th century, we demonstrate that multidecadal wind variability has significant impact on wind energy generation in Germany. These modes of variability can not be detected in modern reanalyses that are typically used for energy applications because modern reanalyses are too short (around 40 years of data). We show that energy generation over a 20-year wind park lifetime varies by around ±5 % and the summer-to-winter ratio varies by around ±15 %. Moreover, ERA-Interim-based annual and winter generations are biased high as the period 1979–2010 overlaps with a multidecadal maximum of wind energy generation. The induced variations in wind park lifetime revenues are on the order of 10 % with direct implications for profitability. Our results suggest rethinking energy system design as an ongoing and dynamic process. Revenues and seasonalities change on a multidecadal timescale, and so does the optimum energy system layout.