Current and Future Estimates of Wind Energy Potential Over Saudi Arabia

Wanfang Chen, Stefano Castruccio, Marc G. Genton, Paola Crippa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Saudi Arabia has a long tradition of relying on fossil fuels for satisfying its energy demand. With the rising energy needs due to population growth and societal development, the nation is seeking other sources of energy, which include its largely underused wind resources. In this paper, we analyze the wind power potential in Saudi Arabia based on the MENA CORDEX (Middle East North Africa Coordinated Regional Climate Downscaling Experiment) model output. We investigate which climate settings and MENA CORDEX runs best capture the spatiotemporal patterns of reanalysis products, as assessed by multiple statistical metrics. Although there is a systematic negative bias in wind speed magnitudes for the five analyzed MENA CORDEX simulations, all runs are able to reproduce the seasonality and annual cycle of wind speed shown in the reanalysis data. The MENA CORDEX run with the highest skills is used to quantify the wind energy potential in Saudi Arabia in both current and future climates. Our analysis shows that a high wind energy potential exists over a vast area of western Saudi Arabia, particularly in the region between Medina and the Red Sea coast and during summer months. Based on model projections, the energy potential in these areas is likely to persist at least until the middle of the 21st century and thus may provide a valuable renewable source of energy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6443-6459
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 27 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Our work was supported by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)’s Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) under award OSR-2015-CRG4-2640. The MERRA-2 data used in this study were provided by the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO) at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. MERRA-2 wind speed data (U10M and V10M) have been accessed from a subset of MERRA-2’s 2d, 1-hourly, time-averaged, single-level diagnostics files (Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO), 2015a), and the air density data (RHOA) have been accessed from a subset of MERRA-2’s 2d, 1-hourly, time-averaged, surface flux diagnostics file (Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO), 2015b). The ERA-Interim reanalysis data were produced by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). ERA-Interim wind speed data (u10 and v10) were accessed from the ERA-Interim archive version 2.0 (Berrisford et al., 2011) via the ECMWF WebAPI, the programmatic way of retrieving data from the archive. We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Regional Climate, and the Working Group on Coupled Modelling, former coordinating body of CORDEX and responsible panel for CMIP5. We also thank the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) for producing and making available their model output. We also acknowledge the Earth System Grid Federation infrastructure, an international effort led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison, the European Network for Earth System Modelling and other partners in the Global Organisation for Earth System Science Portals (GO-ESSP). MENA CORDEX wind speed data (uas and vas) were accessed from the Earth System Grid Federation (ESGF, Cinquini et al., 2014) search portal hosted by the Centre for Environmental Data Analysis (CEDA).

Publisher Copyright:
©2018. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


  • MERRA-2
  • Saudi Arabia
  • wind energy potential
  • wind speed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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