Cameras, Weather Models Help Predict Wind Farm Performance

The intermittent nature of solar and wind power resources makes it difficult for utilities to forecast exactly how much clean energy they can generate on any given day.

But a powerful new modeling service from IBM, called Hybrid Renewable Energy Forecasting (HyRef), harnesses sensors and analytics technologies for far more accurate forecasts.

The solution – already being used in China on wind turbines – uses sky-facing cameras to track the movement of clouds and collect information about weather conditions. Sensors on the turbines monitor wind speed, temperature and direction.

Using that combined data along with Big Data analytics resources from IBM, plant operators can generate local weather forecasts in 15-minute increments and make projections for conditions as far as one month into the future.

This level of insight should make it easier to manage the electricity being generated, or to forecast how much can be redirected to the grid versus how much might need to be stored.

"Utilities around the world are employing a host of strategies to integrate new renewable energy resources into their operating systems in order to reach a baseline goal of a 25 percent renewable energy mix globally by 2025," says Dennis McGinn, president and CEO of the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE). "The weather modeling and forecasting data generated from HyRef will significantly improve this process and in turn, put us one step closer to maximizing the full potential of renewable resources."

The video below provides more insight into how the HyRef modeling technology works:


The technology is being used in the Zhangbei demonstration project being conducted by State Grid Jibei Electricity Power Company Limited (SG-JBEPC), a subsidiary of the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC).

Planned for a capacity of 670 megawatts (MW), the Zhangbei installation is the world’s biggest renewable energy initiative combining wind and solar power with massive banks of energy storage.

By using the IBM wind forecasting technology, the utility expects to increase the amount of renewable energy being sent onto the grid by 10% — it’s enough electricity to power more than 14,000 homes. 

HyRef is related to another IBM smarter analytics initiative with Vestas Wind Systems.

Vestas is using IBM technology to make more strategic decisions about where to place wind turbines, analyzing petabytes of data including weather reports, tidal phase reports, sensor-generated information about local conditions, satellite images, deforestation maps, and weather modeling research.

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