Climate Action

New ‘Renewables ninja’ calculates solar and wind power availability

A new interactive tool, named Renewables ninja, has the ability to estimate the amount of renewable energy that could be generated at any location around the world at any given moment.

  • 09 September 2016
  • William Brittlebank

A new interactive tool, named Renewables ninja, has the ability to estimate the amount of renewable energy that could be generated at any location around the world at any given moment.

The tool was developed by researchers from Imperial College London and ETH Zurich with the aim of improving the prediction of renewable output for both academic and industry purposes.

It is based on detailed geographical data about wind speeds and insolation collected over the past 30 years by Nasa. It combines this information with the technical specifications of wind turbines and solar panels in order to calculate the exact amount of energy that can be generated at any point on the Earth during the year.

‘Renewables ninja’ has already revealed that offshore wind farms in Europe only produce about 24 per cent of their maximum capacity due to the inconsistent nature of the weather.

The tool has also discovered that despite Britain not being the sunniest country, on the best summer days solar power now produces more energy than nuclear power.

Stefan Pfenninger, researcher at ETH Zürich, said: “Renewables ninja has already allowed us to answer important questions about the current and future renewable energy infrastructure across Europe and in the UK”.

However, wind and solar energies have a strong dependence on weather conditions, which can be difficult to integrate into national power systems that require consistency.

Iain Staffell, from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, said:  “Modelling wind and solar power is very difficult because they depend on complex weather systems. “Getting data, building a model and checking that it works well takes a lot of time and effort.”

He added: “ If every researcher has to create their own model when they start to investigate a question about renewable energy, a lot of time is wasted. So we built our models so they can be easily used by other researchers online.”

Renewables ninja has been beta-tested for six months and is now being used by 54 institutions across 22 countries, including the European Commission and the International Energy Agency.