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Wind Forecasting Receives $2.5 Million Boost From US DOE

$4.5 million for new wind turbine technologyThe US Department of Energy (DOE) is investing $2.5 million into a new project intended to research the atmospheric pressures that generate wind in mountain-valley regions. And while it might not sound glamorous to you (though it does to me), the in-depth research is set to provide better data for the wind industry’s weather models for short-term wind forecasts, allowing wind farms to operate closer to maximum capacity and contributing more to the energy grid.

The Wind Forecasting Improvement Project 2 is set to be conducted by Vaisala of Louisville, Colorado, a Finnish company and a global leader in electronic measurement systems.

“Due to the complexity of terrain in mountain-valley regions and varying degrees of soil moisture and surface temperatures, predicting specific wind conditions presents a major challenge to utility operators looking to optimize the performance of wind turbines in these areas,” the DOE wrote in its press release announcing the project.

“Complex terrain creates substantial forecast challenges for wind plants in most regions,” said Jack Peterson, Manager of Energy Operations Support at Southern California Edison. “We have seen many situations where the forecasts are dramatically different at neighboring wind farms with only slight elevation changes. Improving the science behind forecasts is an important step and will greatly benefit the industry by removing some of the challenges we face.”

One of the really cool parts of this project will be news that data collected using state-of-the-art meteorological equipment will be shared in near real-time with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Energy’s national laboratories, for use in increasing the efficacy of the Weather Research and Forecasting model, a widely used weather prediction model.

“Wind energy is an inherently variable resource,” said Dr. James McCaa, Manager of Advanced Applications at Vaisala and Principal Investigator for WFIP2. “However, as modeling and forecasting techniques improve, we are increasingly able to calculate and predict that variability, a key factor for developers and operators worldwide as they make crucial long-term investment decisions. In mountainous areas, where atmospheric phenomena and unique topography expose some weaknesses in current models, there is still work to be done to enhance the reliability of forecasting.”

Enter the Wind Forecasting Improvement Project 2, which will attempt to demystify some of these unreliabilities.

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