Energy companies can benefit greatly by accurate wind forecasts as wind energy use increases rapidly in response to growing calls for renewable energy sources. A recent study by Jeon et. al., published in the May 2022 Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, compared the accuracy of forecasts from the newer and older versions of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s High Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model and quantified the differences in terms of energy that could be saved had the more accurate version been used.
Every few years a new version of this model is released and tested alongside the previous version – two such testing years occurred in 2015 and 2017. These researchers from Colorado State University and NOAA found that the more recent models were more accurate in terms of wind predictions during both testing years using 12-hour out forecasts. Quantifying these accuracy differences using the price of extra electricity or unnecessary operation costs, the researchers found that approximately $384 million could have been saved by energy companies (a large portion of which could have been passed along to customers) by using the newer (test) version of the HRRR model instead of the previous (operational) version. Obviously, many energy utilities don’t use predictions of winds directly from these models but many meteorologists or forecast providers that provide forecasts to utilities are likely to develop their short-term forecasts at least in part from these high-resolution models. This is particularly true in areas where local topography such as mountains or valleys or differing surface features such as lakes affect winds on a small scale.
The researchers are now turning their focus to cloud cover forecasts from the HRRR and resulting energy savings for solar power. For a more comprehensive summary of the research, see this news release from Science Daily. The abstract and full research article can be found here.
Similarly, another study performed for the Lockheed Martin Corporation found that in the California Independent System Operator market alone, savings of up to $146 million would be possible with improved wind forecasting, and a study for a New England market found that forecast improvements would also result in savings for various reasons. These studies illustrate the significance of finding the most accurate forecasts possible for the greatest energy savings.
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