The Link Between Mineral Dust and Wind Speed: Implications for Wind Energy in the Maghreb

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Zachary McGraw and Trude Storelvmo, Yale University, New Haven, CT, United States
Airborne dust is capable of degrading wind turbine performance. This will be a particularly salient consideration for future schemes to utilize wind energy in the Maghreb, a region of Africa marked by the presence of the Sahara desert, the world’s largest source of mineral dust. In this study we analyzed the correlation between wind speed and the existence of dust in measurements pertaining to the region. Wind speed data was acquired from meteorological masts along with reanalysis output. Comparisons were made to the presence of polluted and desert dust as identified by CALIOP, a satellite-based lidar instrument, and to coarse-mode Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) measurements from the AERONET network of sun photometers. It was anticipated that results would evidence the existence of a critical wind speed that is required for the emission of noticeable desert dust. The proximity of this threshold to the ideal range of wind speeds for turbine efficiency can potentially influence the feasibility of harvesting wind energy in the region.