Shifting the nation's energy portfolio toward renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar power, and biofuels, is a national priority. Atmospheric science has a role in developing these resources: important meteorological and climatic factors influence the amount of energy available from these sources, and renewable energy developments themselves can have climate and environmental impacts.
There are a number of atmospheric research frontiers of particular relevance. Improved understanding of the atmospheric boundary layer and the interaction of flow regimes with variable topography is crucial for developing wind resources. There is now widespread recognition that poor characterization of the atmospheric conditions in which wind turbines operate is hindering the development of their energy-generation potential: wind farms are under-producing by 15-20%, and turbines that are designed for a 20-year lifetime are failing in less than five years. The efficiency of future power grids can be substantially improved by using accurate and detailed short-term weather predictions to control renewable power generation systems. New sensors and weather prediction systems are needed for future grids that may include energy storage components. Finally, in the area of biofuels, cultivating new crops for scaled up production could significantly change land-use patterns, which, in turn, could negatively impact soil erosion, water resources, and regional climate. NCAR has significant expertise in all of these areas. We plan to