DOE, NOAA, and Partners Launch Project to Improve Wind Forecasting

July 18, 2011 | Furthering the Obama Administration’s goal to generate 80% of our Nation’s electricity from clean energy resources by 2035, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and private partners today launched a project to improve wind forecasting. More accurate forecasting of wind will accelerate the use of wind power in electricity transmission networks by allowing utilities and grid operators to more accurately forecast when, where, and how much electricity will be generated from wind.

Electricity grid operators need to accurately predict and plan for the energy output of wind power plants in their systems. Currently, prediction of large changes in wind speed can be off by several hours, so utilities accommodate by keeping more reserve generation in operation than needed. The Wind Forecast Improvement Project (WFIP) focuses on improving forecast accuracy for large changes in wind speed over periods of time in the range of an hour or less, which will help utilities plan the mix of electricity generators in operation on an hourly basis and ultimately reduce costs. With better forecasting from projects such as WFIP, utilities can more reliably connect variable power sources including wind energy with electricity grids.

In September 2010, DOE competitively selected AWS Truepower LLC in Albany, New York and WindLogics, Inc. in Saint Paul, Minnesota to lead teams of several partners and work with DOE and NOAA on the project, primarily to collect data and assess utility benefits of improved forecasting. DOE funds WFIP with up to $6 million over two years, while NOAA contributes scientific expertise, instrumentation for collecting atmospheric data, and modeling for weather predictions.

As part of the project, atmospheric measurements will be taken in the Upper Midwest and Texas, regions that were selected for their wind resources and numerous wind farms. The project will make use of powerful, custom instruments designed to profile atmospheric conditions, with a focus on wind. Throughout the next 12 months, data will be gathered from this network of sophisticated atmospheric instruments, which includes wind profiling radars, sodars, and anemometers. Wind-profiling radars use radio waves to capture detailed images of wind speed and direction in the atmosphere. Sodars do the same, but use sound waves to detect wind conditions. Anemometers measure wind speed in one particular place, such as the hub of a wind turbine.

NOAA will incorporate data from this network and other sources into an advanced weather forecasting model to provide more accurate forecasts for wind speeds and directions at 300 to 400 feet above ground level – the average height of modern horizontal-axis wind turbines. WFIP researchers will then analyze the savings that these forecasting improvements will enable for utility operations.

WFIP is being carried out under the “Weather-Dependent and Oceanic Renewable Energy Resources” Memorandum of Understanding signed by DOE and NOAA in January 2011, which sets up a framework for the agencies to collaborate on renewable energy modeling and forecasting.

DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy invests in clean energy technologies that strengthen the economy, protect the environment, and reduce dependence on foreign oil. For more information on EERE projects and initiatives please visit their website.

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