Wind energy is a fickle source of power. When the wind blows too hard, grids are overloaded with electricity. When there’s no wind, customers might get brownouts. To counter this problem Xcel Energy, the biggest US wind company is working with the National centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to get better forecasts.
Currently, Xcel can predict wind with a 20% error rate, a number much too high for a company that has ambitious plans to ramp up its wind power production. The company hopes that better forecasting will result in $10-12 million in savings.
Until forecasters can better predict the wind and companies can better store excess energy, wind power will still need to tap un-clean sources of energy to help out its customers. As of now, when the wind isn’t blowing so hard, the company needs to purchase electricity to distribute to its customers, which can be a pricey proposition.
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