Thursday, February 5, 2009

Wind: "How's the Weather?" Xcel Teams up With The National Center for Atmospheric Research (XEL)

From EurekAlert:

NCAR forecasts will help Xcel Energy harness wind

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has reached an agreement with Xcel Energy to provide highly detailed, localized weather forecasts to enable the utility to better integrate electricity generated from wind into the power grid. The forecasts will help operators make critical decisions about powering down traditional coal- and natural gas-fired plants when sufficient winds are predicted, allowing the utility to increase reliance on alternative energy while still meeting the needs of its customers.

The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will support the project by developing mathematical formulas to calculate the amount of energy that turbines generate when winds blow at various speeds.

NCAR will use a suite of tools, including cutting-edge computer models, to issue high-resolution wind forecasts for wind farm sites every three hours. If the prediction system is successful, wind forecasting companies may adopt the technology to help utilities in the United States and overseas transition away from fossil fuels.

"One of the major obstacles that has prevented more widespread use of wind energy is the difficulty in predicting when and how strongly the wind will blow at the wind farms," says William Mahoney, the NCAR program director overseeing the project. "These forecasts are a critical step in getting more energy from wind."

Generating electricity in real time

A number of states are mandating that utilities increase their use of renewable energy as a way to reduce dependence on fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas, which affect air quality and release greenhouse gases associated with climate change. But the shift to wind means relying on a resource that is notoriously difficult to predict and manage...MORE