Wind farms will soon receive specialized weather forecasts

  • Denver (CO) - How many roads must a man walk down? The answer is blowing in the wind. And now, thanks to new research carried out at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Xcel Energy, new forecasting technologies might just tell us which way the wind blows, how fast and for how long.

    NCAR's program director, William Mahoney, said "Currently, if [utilities] don't trust the forecasts for wind, they can't rely completely on wind and have to have alternative services ready to go." For example, running coal and natural-gas plants just in case the wind doesn't produce enough power wastes money and releases damaging carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to Mahoney.

    The new forecasts will draw data from satellites, aircraft, weather radar, ground weather stations and sensors on the wind turbines themselves. The information will all be collected and fed into three NCAR computer systems. These are:

    1) The Weather Research and Forecasting computer model.
    2) The Real-Time Four-Dimensional Data Assimilation System.
    3) The Dynamic Integrated foreCast System.
    A prototype model of the new wind forecasting system will be developed over the next 18 months, and then tweaked for 12 months after that by Xcel Energy. Initial forecasts will be for wind farms in Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas and Wyoming.

    This information will help advance mathematical formulas currently being developed at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado, which calculate how much electricity the turbines will generate at different wind speeds. This information can be used to coordinate efforts among more traditional power generation facilities like coal-fired and natural-gas fired electric plants.

    See the original AP article republished on El Paso Times.