BPA Sponsors Wind Forecast Competition

Two research teams are about to begin competing to see which can best predict changes in the region’s shifting winds as much as 36 hours ahead. The contest is sponsored by the Bonneville Power Administration.

The team with the most accurate predictions will be in line for a BPA contract to develop a full-scale wind forecast model for the entire fleet of Northwest wind projects. Better forecasts benefit the booming wind energy sector and electric customers by anticipating sudden shifts in wind energy so power managers can smoothly incorporate it into the grid.

The Northwest forecast model would be the first created specifically to foresee sharp changes, or “ramps,” in wind energy, with wide potential to help utilities meld wind with other power sources. BPA hopes the competition will help promote wind forecasting the way the X Prize advanced aerospace technology.

“Wind power is a great energy source, but we could make even better use of it if we could anticipate big changes,” said John Pease, the project manager overseeing the initiative for BPA’s Technology Innovation Office. “By fostering this friendly competition, we’re getting some of the best wind forecasting brainpower in the world focused on developing an important new tool.”

One team from the United States and another from Germany will begin this month projecting winds at four Oregon and Washington wind projects based on 2007 conditions. Oregon State University researchers will assist a national peer review team in assessing the predictions against actual meteorological data.

BPA sought bids from wind forecasters interested in the competition, and selected two, AWS Truewind and Energy & Meteo Systems. Both companies must use the same publicly available meteorological data, including records from BPA wind measurement sites managed and quality checked by OSU.

The competition is a collaboration with the California Independent System Operator, which manages much of California’s power grid. Some Northwest wind energy helps California fulfill its aggressive renewable energy standards.

The competing companies will deliver forecasts through December. BPA will select the winning forecast model in early 2010, and could decide to contract with both teams depending on their strengths.

Wind power in BPA’s service area nearly doubled in the last year and keeps growing fast, but Northwest weather and topography can make breezes volatile. Wind generation in BPA’s system can vary over an hour by close to 1,000 megawatts – roughly the output of a major nuclear plant. BPA maintains energy reserves to fill gaps when wind unexpectedly slows, and must charge wind producers for the service.

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