Improved, independent collection and analysis of weather information for energy assessment and forecasting urgently needed to support US renewable energy investments
Weather remains one of the biggest risks to US wind investment strategies and the North American power sector despite increased access to high quality weather information and forecasting data. Moreover, without a proper understanding of the effects of weather, there is a growing risk that current and future investments in wind energy will not meet expectations, or be fully and economically integrated into the power system. This will significantly reduce the flow of investment capital into the sector.
The incorrect use of weather information and an incomplete understanding of weather uncertainty are sidelining investment capital, especially in a post-subsidy world. Wind projects are being scheduled too conservatively, stranding gigawatts and revenue at the wind farm. Energy portfolios that include hybrid solutions such as fossil, wind, and transmission assets are not being fully optimized. This is due to the uncertainty of renewable power generation and leads to sub-par portfolio revenue.
This according to Vaisala, a company involved in renewable energy assessment, weather measurement, and power forecasting. Owners and operators are seeking to maximize wind project operational yield. They need to collect weather information, but also make commercially focused, strategic decisions based on in-depth analysis and an understanding of weather variability. They need to find the right projects, obtain the project financing necessary to construct the optimized wind solution for the selected site and operate them efficiently to maximize their economical use within any energy generation portfolio. These factors have become increasingly critical to future project success and all of them depend on the weather.
Vaisala recently acquired Second Wind, a leader in remote sensing systems, and 3TIER, a renewable energy assessment and forecasting company. Combining the capabilities of these companies enables Vaisala to use accurate and trusted weather intelligence to deliver comprehensive, mission critical, resource assessment, and forecasting guidance.
Following the company’s growth, the strong global energy business unit now benefits from offices in over 30 countries around the world supporting customers in over 150 countries. Vaisala has direct experience providing forecast information and advice for 130 GW of international wind projects. In wind assessment terms alone, Vaisala now has experience working on over 40 GW of proposed sites. “For our growing portfolio of wind energy clients, this information and advice really matters because it provides them with impartial guidance and proven, bankable data, that gives them the necessary confidence to keep making profitable energy decisions,” said the company’s Global Director, New Weather Markets, Richard Pyle.
“Within the North American wind energy market, over the past few years we have already seen a fundamental step change, as the market matures and as the supporting finance and investment mechanisms begin to shift. Developers, operators and owners are looking for incremental operational improvements on existing sites, to register long-term financial benefit and gain. For many, the search for these enhancements begins with developing a better understanding of the energy resource – weather.”
At an individual wind project level, current industry estimates suggest that a 1% reduction or improvement in generation can impact a single project’s net present value by about $1.5 million.
This incremental improvement is often delivered through developing an enhanced, early-stage understanding of weather information and intelligence. Richard Pyle added, “In North America alone, there is over 61,110 MW of installed capacity, comprised of 905 utility-scale wind energy projects. In 2013, this exceeded over 4% of total US electricity generation, powering 15.5 million American homes. “However, while market growth continues, top line growth has slowed. As the market grapples with this shift, it therefore makes good business sense for operators and owners to look at their existing asset base for future efficiencies and growth.
“Working directly with wind project developers, operators, and asset managers, Vaisala lets clients, for the first time, develop a clear and comprehensive view of resource risk throughout the lifecycle of a project; from early-stage data capture through final investment feasibility to operational optimization and energy scheduling,” he added.
Through the provision of a fully integrated weather measurement, energy assessment, and power forecasting service, Vaisala reduces project uncertainty and helps the market better manage energy assets. By developing a thorough understanding of project feasibility, performance, and future weather risk, Vaisala is a trusted provider of weather intelligence and advice.
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