Accurate weather forecasts are critical for making energy sources -- including wind and solar -- dependable and predictable.
These forecasts also play an important role in reducing the cost of renewable energy by allowing electricity grid operators to make timely decisions on what reserve generation they need to operate their systems.
Earlier this week, the Energy Department and the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched the Wind Forecast Improvement Project to increase the accuracy of weather forecast models for predicting substantial changes in winds at heights important for wind energy up to six hours in advance. Currently, forecasts of these wind “ramp” events can be off by matters of hours, thus grid operators must keep more reserve generation in operation than would be needed if they had a confident prediction of the expected wind power production.
Throughout the next 12 months, a network of sophisticated instruments will take measurements of atmospheric conditions in areas of the upper midwest and Texas with abundant wind resources and numerous wind farms.
NOAA will incorporate this data 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 typical height of modern horizontal-axis wind turbines. Wind Forecast Improvement Project researchers will then analyze the savings that these forecasting improvements can provide utility operations.
The Energy Department will fund the Wind Forecasting Improvement Program with up to $6 million over two years, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will contribute scientific expertise, instrumentation for collecting atmospheric data and modeling for weather predictions.
For more details on the Wind Forecast Improvement Project, see the Energy Department's Progress Alert and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Press Release. For more information on how the Department works to accelerate the development and deployment of clean wind energy technologies, visit the Wind and Water Power Program website.