Wind energy is variable. It quickly picks up or drops off depending on the weather, so it requires system operations to help manage the swings. As we add more wind generation to our system, we continue to improve our processes, finding solutions to manage this variability and demonstrating that wind can serve as part of a reliable power system.
We use a cutting-edge forecasting system to manage nearly 6,700 megawatts of wind generation on our systems. At the end of 2008, we began working with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and its affiliate company Global Weather Corp. to improve the predictability of our wind resources. The multi-year project has produced a system that delivers high-resolution, wind energy forecasts for up to a 168-hour period. Those forecasts are provided every 15 minutes across our entire service territory.
Most weather forecasting models are designed to predict wind speeds near ground level rather than at 200 to 300 feet, where turbine hubs are typically located. The WindWx system uses real-time, turbine-level operating data and applies sophisticated algorithms to forecast the amount of wind power that will be produced. The forecasts are created through a suite of high-tech tools, including computer models, advanced statistical techniques, and highly detailed observations of atmospheric conditions and energy generation.
Through more precise wind-power forecasting, we have reduced our forecast error rate by about 39 percent, allowing us to better determine when to turn up or down coal and natural gas plants. Improved forecasting and other efforts have saved our customers more than $66.7 million in fuel costs through the end of 2016.
The significant wind resources we manage are changing the way we operate our systems. In addition to improved wind forecasting, we have made a number of improvements in our processes to lower operating costs while maintaining system reliability.
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