Assessing the utility of up to the minute weather forecasts
Weather plays a critical role in wind farm projects, affecting everything from safety issues to the day to day running of sites.
For its part, MeteoGroup, via its dedicated building and construction website www.BuildCast.co.uk, allows project managers to identify effective working window and issue clear guidance about the weather to their contractors. This tool gives hour by hour forecasts and observed weather conditions, updated at regular intervals throughout the day, allowing maximum resources to be applied during calm weather windows.
By using tools such as www.BuildCast.co.uk, downtime can be minimised when it comes to getting lifting plant or offshore vessels mobilised at the right time.
In an interview with windenergyupdate.com, MeteoGroup UK's spokesperson spoke about such tool, relevance of meteorological information, turnkey solutions and much more. Excerpts:
windenergyupdate.com: Can you provide an insight on how is meteorological information used for site evaluation, construction and operation of a wind farm?
MeteoGroup: Good quality, up to date weather information is key at every stage in the development of a wind farm, on-or off-shore. Historic datasets are scrutinised at the site evaluation stage so developers can even justify a construction project to potential investors. The requirement of wind farms to generate power and the environmental concerns regarding their construction means they are often positioned well away from the urban hubs and meteorologically significant locations and hence well away from the nearest synoptic weather recording stations. However, meteorological techniques such as downscaling and hindcasting have been developed in recent years to overcome this.
The very nature of wind farms means they are put up in areas, which are exposed to the elements. When combined, these factors do all they can to slow down a build project and make the build site potentially unsafe. MeteoGroup, via its dedicated building and construction website www.BuildCast.co.uk allows project managers to identify effective working window and issue clear guidance about the weather to their contractors. Buildcast gives hour by hour forecasts and observed weather conditions, updated at regular intervals throughout the day allowing maximum resources to be applied during calm weather windows.
From an operational perspective, planners and managers of wind farms need a continuous feed of reliable information concerning forthcoming conditions. MeteoGroup provide detailed site specific hazard alerts for lightning, heavy rain, icy access roads, fog, snow and heavy rain to safeguard turbines, assist with maintenance planning and repair work, and fulfil health and safety requirements.
windenergyupdate.com: What kind of services do you offer to farm operators and output forecasters and what role do they play in their operations? What sort of a turnkey solution do you offer?
MeteoGroup: MeteoGroup, of course, has also invested considerable time and resource in its attempt to be the preferred supplier of hub-height wind forecast data to on-shore and off-shore wind power forecasters in Europe. Forecasting for hub height throws up a whole new challenge to meteorologists who have long been forecasting for surface wind speeds and modelling synoptic observations which record wind speed at 10m/sec.
We have developed a suite of techniques which we use depending on the geography of the farm and the forecast period required and our results verify well. However, verification is not always straight forward and, moreover, we have identified the difficulty in accessing good quality observed wind data from operational wind farms as the biggest restriction on developing really accurate forecast models.
MeteoGroup also supplies wind power forecasts into the market. Where on site data is available, statistical models yield good results when meteorological conditions are converted to power output. Where on site data is not available MeteoGroup can fall back on working relationships with specialised power forecasters to provide that turnkey solution to the customer.
MeteoGroup is in the advantageous position of being able to offer a solution to the meteorological problems at each step in the development and life time of a wind farm. As such we can offer a single stop shop to clients looking to streamline their operations. We have huge experience in the development of bespoke websites and appropriate service packages for clients across Europe and our client list of utilities, developers and turbine manufacturers is expanding quickly.
windenergyupdate.com: How do you recommend companies approach the issues of downtime and risk assessment?
MeteoGroup: As computer processing power has accelerated over the last decade, forecasting techniques have taken big strides forward at the same time. By incorporating 'ensemble' forecasts into its day to day operations MeteoGroup can now predict the weather further and more accurately into the future. By using tools such as www.BuildCast.co.uk downtime can be minimised when it comes to getting lifting plant or offshore vessels mobilised at the right time. We also have a team of experienced forecasters at hand 24/7 with access to the some of the world's most accurate forecast information.
Both weather and risk are a numbers game and by marrying the two, the level of risk can be brought down significantly. Just about all aspects of a weather forecast can be given a numerical value which makes it a very useful tool when considering risk. Warning thresholds can be set on all of our forecast parameters allowing assessors to assign a level of risk to any particular part of a project. MeteoGroup has systems in place which give risk assessors useful information on potential downtime brought about by high risk. Again, hindcasting is a useful tool here as it can give planners the ability of knowing what the best time of year is to conduct routine maintenance or new builds.
windenergyupdate.com: Can you explain how different types of meteorological information are used to ensure the end user can make confident, well thought out decisions?
MeteoGroup: Ever increasing computer power and money from weather critical industries have driven a steady improvement in weather forecasting over several decades. MeteoGroup marries global model predictions with site specific climatology to produce market leading levels of accuracy in the short term.
Temperature, wind speed, gust speed, precipitation amounts etc. can all be forecast to a high degree of accuracy when looking at the next couple of days. The ability of models to pick up weather patterns so well means we can produce lightning, flood and gale warnings, for example, and our clients can react accordingly. Beyond the short-term, we incorporate ensemble model prediction data and seasonal information to give clients as much information about likely conditions, probabilities and confidence levels as possible. Furthermore, our forecasters will be looking at output from all models and forming opinions which they will communicate to clients on the phone and through routine updates.
windenergyupdate.com: With reference to the Government's plans to give the green light for up to 10,000 new wind turbines to be erected across Britain, an expert said that for local authority planning departments, a massive rise in - almost certainly unpopular - applications for new wind farms is required. How do you assess the situation and evolving role of meteorological department in the time to come?
MeteoGroup: It is clear that increasing numbers of wind farm applications will pertain to locations that impinge on residential communities and/or effect sensitive rural and maritime ecosystems. Nonetheless, it is up to the meteorological community to offer good value, quality information to potential developers assessing new site potential as fewer and fewer obvious locations remain available.
Of course, the ever increasing size of the industry and therefore demand on our services must be matched by investment in appropriate meteorological R&D. MeteoGroup understands the requirement to maintain its position at the forefront of wind farm meteorology because without doubt more suppliers will enter the market place bringing with them new technologies and potentially putting pressure on cost.