The growth of wind-generated power in the United States is creating greater demand for improved wind forecasts. To address this need, the Department of Energy is working with NOAA and industry on the Wind Forecast Improvement Project, funded and led by DOE.
“Our goal is to improve short-term forecasts to help industry know how much wind power can be produced in various geographic regions,” said James Wilczak, research meteorologist at NOAA’s Earth System Research Lab. “Better forecasts are the key to helping industry optimize wind power, along with other power sources, to ensure they’re meeting demand. Improved integration of wind power also reduces dependence on fossil fuel burning, which result in greenhouse gas emissions.”
The most significant early gain from the project, now in its third year, is NOAA’s improved ability to predict wind speeds, direction and duration at the height of wind turbines, which operate between 65 and 650 feet above ground level.
The improvement was possible because NOAA collected and added new weather data at the height of turbines to its high resolution, rapid refresh weather forecast models that update hourly. NOAA, DOE labs, private companies and many academic institutions set up radar and other experimental wind profiling instruments to collect data in two study areas, the Upper Great Plains and Texas. Scientists also worked with wind farm owners and power industry operators in these areas to collect data from their tall towers and wind turbines.
Wind profiling radar
NOAA scientists used this wind profiling radar set up in Buffalo, North Dakota, and other instruments installed in two test areas to collect data that was integrated into forecast models. (NOAA)
“The richness of wind data helped us better understand wind at these lower levels and improve our forecasting skill in the experiments,” said Stan Benjamin, NOAA research meteorologist at the Earth System Research Lab who worked with a team of scientists from ESRL, NOAA’s National Weather Service and NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado. “The project improved near-surface wind modeling in NOAA’s forecast models currently in use as well as in the High Resolution Rapid Refresh model that is slated to go into operation later this year.”
Private industry partners in the project saw the benefits of improved wind forecasts. “Grid operators need more timely and accurate wind forecasts to know when it’s economical to rely on wind or when it makes sense to use another source,” said Bruce Bailey, President and Chief Executive Officer of AWS Truepower, a private renewable energy consulting company that participated in the study. “This project has given us a sense of what can be done to more effectively and economically harness wind energy.”
“To make long-term improvements to forecasts, we will need to form lasting partnerships within the wind community to permanently install new instruments that collect more open source wind data at these important heights in areas across the country where wind energy is being developed,” said Joel Cline, meteorologist in DOE’s Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Wind and Water Power Technologies Office. “The research has shown us the potential for improved forecasts, but the next step is to find the resources to make this kind of rich data and improved forecasting a part of operations.”
For the latest report on the Wind Improvement Project go to: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/05/f15/wfipandnoaafinalreport.pdf
For Department of Energy maps of our nation’s wind resources go to: http://energy.gov/eere/wind/wind-resource-assessment-and-characterization
For NOAA’s Wind Forecast Improvement website go to: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/psd3/wfip/
For more information, please contact Monica Allen, director of public affairs for NOAA Research at 301-734-1123 or by email at email@example.com