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Wind Farms To Receive Future Wind Forecasts 57

An anonymous reader writes "If the US plans to develop wind farms across the country they need a better way to predict the wind direction and the duration. NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) is looking to do just that. In December, NCAR signed an agreement with Xcel Energy to develop a wind prediction system for the company's wind energy farms in Colorado, Minnesota, and Texas. Experimental forecasts may start as early as May. At present, most wind forecasts rely heavily on statistical forecasting methods, since the numerical weather forecast products available from operational centers are produced with coarse-grid, larger-scale models. The RTFDDA system, however, is designed to provide a birds-eye view of local weather for small areas of special interest, like wind farms, through a multiple level downscaling algorithm." I hope that decentralized weather-data gathering stations (like many people have feeding data to The Weather Underground) would be useful for this purpose.
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Wind Farms To Receive Future Wind Forecasts

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  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Duradin ( 1261418 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @05:30PM (#26729927)
    Why would an energy company want to have an estimate of how much or how little a particular portion of their grid is going to produce? What could they possibly do with that sort of information? It's not like our electrical grid is built to primarily rely on a very steady base load and doesn't tolerate spikes well...
  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jason Pollock ( 45537 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @05:39PM (#26730055) Homepage

    There are several reasons that power generators (of any kind) want accurate weather reports.

    1) Thermal generation: They have consents that limit the temperature of their waste water. If the temperature exceeds a certain temperature, they can't shed it fast enough, lowering their generation capacity.
    2) Wind generation: If the wind is too low, you don't generate. If it's too high, again, you don't generate. During the two points there is a curve indicating the amount of power you will generate.
    3) Hydro: The rain you will receive needs to be rationed over the season. No rain in the forecast, you can't generate as much power.

    It's all about forecasting how much power you can generate. These providers all have contracts to provide a fixed amount of power to their customers. If they cannot meet that obligation, they have to purchase it from other providers. The sooner they know if they will have to buy on the wholesale market, the cheaper it is for them.

    Otherwise, they have to be even more cautious, since the power generation from hydro and wind can be bursty. This limits their ability to supply power to those requiring guaranteed power delivery.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @06:03PM (#26730305)

    This doesn't seem to be a plan to better site windmills or increase their efficiency, but rather a way of predicting their near-future output to ease grid operation. If you know how much electricity your wind-farm is likely to produce tomorrow, you can better plan which non-wind power plants need to be operating, and at what levels. That can make things cheaper, because you can ramp up or down base-load power stations rather than having to rely on last-minute emergency generation when your wind farm produced less electricity than expected.

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley