A new $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to a coalition of organizations including the University of Colorado Boulder will be used to help improve wind energy forecasting in mountain and valley regions.
The grant is led by Vaisala, an international company based in Finland with offices in Louisville, Colorado, that specializes in environmental and industrial measurements. The new research will be targeting ways to improve the wind energy industry’s weather models for short-term wind forecasts.
According to CU-Boulder project leader Julie Lundquist, an assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC), better forecasting will help integrate renewably generated electricity into the power grid, leading to lower energy costs for consumers.
“We will be making an unprecedented number of measurements in and around wind farms specifically to understand the meteorology in complex terrain as a way to improve the reliability of forecasts,” said Lundquist. “We also will be measuring how large wind farms impact the weather in their local environments.”
Because of the complex terrain in mountain and valley regions, predicting specific wind conditions is a challenge to utility operators, according to the DOE. Vaisala and its partners will be using advanced meteorological equipment, including wind-sensing lasers, to analyze wind patterns in the Columbia River Gorge region of Washington and Oregon. “Better forecasts of wind allow power grid utilities to manage their supply and demand of electricity,” said Lundquist.
CU-Boulder students led by Lundquist and ATOC Assistant Professor Katja Friedrich will participate in the experiment and data analysis, including four graduate students who will collect and analyze the measurements. Project measurements also will be incorporated into Lundquist’s undergraduate class, “Wind Energy Meteorology.”
“Because of this project’s close coordination with wind farm operators and power grid authorities, our students will participate in the entire forecast improvement process,” said Lundquist. “They will install instruments, analyze the measurements, identify challenging weather situations, test and improve forecast models and see the practical results of their efforts in better forecasts of wind power production and, ultimately, lower costs of renewably generated electricity.”
Other partners in the new wind research effort include the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, the Louisville office of Lockheed Martin, Texas Tech University, the University of Notre Dame and an environmental consulting firm, Sharply Focused, of Portland, Oregon. Lundquist said scientists from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and CU-Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) will be participating in the research effort.
Lundquist also is a fellow at the Renewable & Sustainable Energy Institute, a joint research institution of CU-Boulder NREL.