The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

How Xcel Saved $22 Million with Weather and Wind Forecasting

We recently covered the launch of IBM's weather + wind forecasting and modeling system, dubbed HyRef, touting the ability to predict incoming weather patterns and calculate wind turbine performance from 15-minute intervals up to 30 days in advance, with 90+ percent accuracy, and with a stamp of approval from customer Chinese State Grid Corp.

But to be fair, IBM's HyRef isn't the first effort at putting together weather forecasting and wind data analysis. One of these efforts, a partnership in the U.S. between the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Xcel Energy, has been fully operational since 2009 and has saved Xcel tens of millions of dollars.

Sue Ellen Haupt, director of weather systems and assessment programs in NCAR's Research Applications Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, offered more insights into this work. NCAR's roots in this technology, dubbed "Variational Doppler Radar Assimilation System" (VDRAS), go back into the 1990s, extending what has been used for "nowcasting" weather at U.S. Army test ranges to the past two summer Olympic Games. (More details were published in an IEEE journal last fall.)

Xcel's service territory (as of early August) covers 107 wind farms totaling 3,746 turbines and a total capacity of roughly 5.4 GW. A February 2013 presentation at a workshop of the Utility Variable Generation Integration group discloses Xcel's use of variable generation forecast (NCAR calls it the "Wind Power Forecast System") for reserve planning, forecasting (real-time, hour-ahead, day-ahead) and ramping, and planning for its power commitments and trading. Calculating a forecasted mean absolute error (MAE), i.e. variation over time in a plant's performance (installed capacity vs. power production), Xcel determined that from 2009-2012 it saw anywhere from 17-38 percent improvement across its service territories, translating to nearly $22 million in total savings. Of course forecast accuracy depends greatly on location and local conditions, from terrain to atmospheric phenomena, and forecasting accuracy and precision differs greatly further out in time, i.e. a 6-hour forecast will have a lower error than a forecast looking two days out.

To that end, NCAR and Xcel are now enhancing the system to include more custom forecasting for several specific Xcel sites in Colorado, Minnesota, and Texas. Part of that will be to predict potentially damaging icing conditions and how that affects power levels; forecasting energy load; and enhancing ramp forecasting. They also are adding probabilistic predictions on estimates for each time period to increase the confidence level. "Because the atmosphere is inherently chaotic, one can never have an exact prediction," she explains, so this is expressed in terms of uncertainty, i.e. error bars — anywhere from 20-80 percent, whatever is requested by a customer as a design criteria. Note that this is different than the error of mean prediction which is dependent upon location and operating factors, and which is the 92 percent statistic for the Zhangbei customer that IBM is talking about.

Lead image: Percent shape clouds, via Shutterstock

RELATED ARTICLES

Renewable Energy Finance

Clean Energy ETFs Are on a Tear

Eric Balchunas, Bloomberg Green investing used to be synonymous with losing money. But while the S&P 500 Index is up 2 percent this year, and the MSCI All-Country World Index is up 5 percent, clean energy ETFs have double-digit re...

Wheels, Towers and Trees: Unconventional Renewable Energy Technologies in the Pipeline

Andrew Williams, International Correspondent A number of companies around the world are developing novel technologies in an effort to grab a slice of the global renewable energy market.  Although many of these technologies are simple incremental improvements to e...
UK Parliament Clean Energy Leaders

UK Government Names Clean Energy Cabinet Members

David Appleyard, Contributing Editor With the UK general election now over and a majority Conservative Party government in place, the re-elected Prime Minister David Cameron has now named key members of the government charged with steering the UK’s clean energ...
Microgrids

Coast to Coast and Across the Electric System, Microgrids Provide Benefits to All

Dick Munson, Environmental Defense Fund At the most obvious level, microgrids could disrupt today’s utilities and their regulated-monopoly business model, because they challenge the centralized paradigm. In a nutshell, microgrids are localized power grids that ha...
Jim is Contributing Editor for RenewableEnergyWorld.com, covering the solar and wind beats. He previously was associate editor for Solid State Technology and Photovoltaics World, and has covered semiconductor manufacturing and related industries, ...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

03/01/2015
Volume 18, Issue 3
file

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Doing Business in Brazil – in partnership with GWEC, the Global Win...

Brazil is one of the most promising markets for wind energy.  Ranke...

Energy Storage USA 2015

Energy Storage USA is the leading conference in the United States focuse...

Wind Power Central America

Wind power projects are expected to reach 46GW of total installed capaci...

COMPANY BLOGS

SunEdison Expands Residential Market Offerings with New PPA, Sales ...

SunEdison has largely focussed on the commercial and utility-scale solar...

Are You Ready for a Natural Disaster?

Guest post by Jenna Clarke  Living in the Shenandoah Valley of Virg...

Deadline for Inclusion in Solar Power World's Top Solar Contractors...

UPDATE: The official deadline for the Solar Power World T...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS