Xcel Energy, NCAR power up renewable energy forecasts

Xcel Energy expanded its agreement with the National Center for Atmospheric Research for renewable energy forecasting. The agreement with the Boulder, Colo.-based center extends an existing relationship that has saved Xcel Energy’s 3.4 million electricity customers in eight states millions of dollars.

In the next two years, NCAR scientists and engineers will develop custom forecasting systems to enable Xcel Energy control centers in Minneapolis, Denver, Golden, Colo., and Amarillo, Tex., to anticipate sudden changes in wind, shut down turbines ahead of potentially damaging icing events and even predict the amount of energy generated by private solar panels.

The new project represents the latest venture by NCAR into renewable energy, which includes a three-year, nationwide project to create 36-hour forecasts of incoming energy from the sun for solar energy power plants.

The systems will help Xcel Energy provide reliable power to its customers and reduce costs while moving to greater use of wind and solar. They come at a time when Xcel Energy is increasing its use of renewable energy in its territories served by Public Service Co. of Colorado, Northern States Power Co.-Minnesota, NSP-Wisconsin and Southwestern Public Service Co.

NCAR’s new agreement with Xcel Energy focuses on the following areas:

·      Forecasting major changes in wind energy over a few hours due to a passing front or another atmospheric event.

·      Forecasting ice and extreme temperatures to predict the impacts of freezing rain on wind turbines, which cannot operate when coated in ice.

·      Generating solar forecasts using a combination of computer models and specialized cloud observing tools to help Xcel Energy better anticipate when customers are getting power from their own panels.

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