Wind Forecast Improvement Project

I just learned about NOAA’s Wind Forecast Improvement Project being conducted in partnership with the Department of Energy.   The goal of this project is to forecast when wind speed will increase or decrease in an effort to help “electric grid operators keep the grid stable by balancing the variable amount of power produced from wind farms by increasing or decreasing power production from conventional generation stations, including coal and natural gas.” The motivation for acquiring this knowledge is to “improve efficiency of operation of these fossil fuel plants, as well as the entire electrical grid system, resulting in lower costs as well as lower CO2 emissions.”

Two videos are available that describe this research project:

A 2:42 minute video (NOAA website)

A 5:32 video (YouTube)

Observed and modeled (forecast) wind profile data are available for Northern (ND,SD,MN,NE) and Southern (TX) study sites.  These plots show both wind speed (in m/s and knots) and wind direction throughout the vertical air column (from appx 400m to 2500m). For more information about interpreting wind barbs, click here.

James Wilczak from NOAA, selected one plot (see below) to share with you that depicts “a nice example of what is called the nocturnal Low Level Jet (LLJ), a layer of accelerated winds that occurs at night over much of the Great Plains and is one of the reasons why the Plains are such a good wind resource.” The LLJ winds are the higher speed winds shown as yellow. The model (bottom plot) gets the general idea correct, but misses the strongest speeds at the start of the LLJ (Hours 02-04 UTC).”

To acquire this set of plots from the WFIP tool, select Colorado City and then May 4th, 2012. Then click on the gray box labeled “NCEP RR” and then below that the blue box labeled “SPD HR.”

Wilczak also provided an example that illustrates how forecasting can be useful to grid operators.   Data from Buffalo, SD on May 3rd, 2012 illustrates “a nice transition of stronger NW winds to a period of near calm, followed by stronger southerly winds.  These are the types of transitions that it is important for grid operators to see coming. The model underestimates the speed of the NW winds, but does pretty well with the calm period and start of the southerly winds.”

To acquire this set of plots from the from the WFIP tool select Buffalo, SD and then select the date May 3, 2012 and then click on the Gray “RUC” box and then blue “SPD HR” box.

As always, I’d love to hear how you use this tool with your students!


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