Current and future potential of solar and wind energy over Africa using the RegCM4 CORDEX-CORE ensemble

Sawadogo W., Reboita W.S., Faye A., Porfírio da Rocha R., Odoulami R.C., Olusegun C.F., Adeniyi M.O., Abiodun B.J., Sylla M.B., Diallo I., Coppola E. & Giorgi F.

Climate Dynamics

57, 2021, 1647–1672, 10.1007/s00382-020-05377-1

Renewable energy is key for the development of African countries, and knowing the best location for the implementation of solar and wind energy projects is important within this context. The purpose of this study is to assess the impact of climate change on solar and wind energy potential over Africa under low end (RCP2.6) and high end (RCP8.5) emission scenarios using a set of new high resolution (25 km) simulations with the Regional Climate Model version 4 (RegCM4) produced as part of the CORDEX-CORE initiative. The projections focus on two periods: (i) the near future (2021–2040) and ii) the mid-century future (2041–2060). The performance of the RegCM4 ensemble mean (Rmean) in simulating relevant present climate variables (1995–2014) is first evaluated with respect to the ERA5 reanalysis and satellite-based data. The Rmean reproduces reasonably well the observed spatial patterns of solar irradiance, air temperature, total cloud cover, wind speed at 100 m above the ground level, photovoltaic power potential (PVP), concentrated solar power output (CSPOUT) and wind power density (WPD) over Africa, though some biases are still evident, especially for cloud-related variables. For the future climate, the sign of the changes is consistent in both scenarios but with more intense magnitude in the middle of the century RCP8.5 scenario. Considering the energy variables, the Rmean projects a general decrease in PVP, which is more pronounced in the mid-century future and under RCP8.5 (up to 2%). Similarly, a general increase in CSPOUT (up to 2%) is projected over the continent under both the RCP2.6 and RCP8.5 scenarios. The projection in WPD shows a similar change (predominant increase) in the near and mid-century future slices under both RCPs with a maximum increase of 20%. The present study suggests that the RCP2.6 emission scenario, in general, favours the implementation of renewable energy in Africa compared to the RCP8.5.