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IBM has developed a power and weather modeling technology to help utilities integrate renewable energy resources into the grid more reliably. The new system combines weather prediction and analytics to forecast the availability of wind power and solar energy.

The Hybrid Renewable Energy Forecasting (HyRef) system uses weather modeling capabilities, cloud imaging technology and sky-facing cameras to track cloud movements.

IBM says this level of insight will enable utilities to better manage the variable nature of wind and solar, and more accurately forecast the amount of power that can be redirected into the power grid or stored. It will also allow energy organizations to easily integrate other conventional sources such as coal and natural gas.

For wind power applications, sensors on the turbines monitor wind speed, temperature and direction. When combined with analytics, the data-assimilation system can produce accurate local weather forecasts within a wind farm as far as one month in advance, or in 15-minute increments. By using local weather forecasts, IBM says HyRef can predict the performance of each individual wind turbine and estimate the amount of generated renewable energy.

"Utilities around the world are employing a host of strategies to integrate new renewable energy resources into their operating systems in order to reach a baseline goal of a 25-percent renewable energy mix globally by 2025," says Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, president and CEO of the American Council On Renewable Energy in a statement. "The weather modeling and forecasting data generated from HyRef will significantly improve this process and in turn, put us one step closer to maximizing the full potential of renewable resources."

According to IBM, China's State Grid Jibei Electricity Power Co. Ltd. (SG-JBEPC), a subsidiary company of the State Grid Corporation of China, is using HyRef to integrate renewable energy into the grid. This initiative, led by SG-JBEPC, is phase one of the Zhangbei 670 MW demonstration project, a renewable energy initiative that combines wind and solar power, energy storage and transmission. This project is part of China's five-year plan to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

"Applying analytics and harnessing big data will allow utilities to tackle the intermittent nature of renewable energy and forecast power production from solar and wind, in a way that has never been done before," says Brad Gammons, IBM's general manager for global energy and utilities. "We have developed an intelligent system that combines weather and power forecasting to increase system availability and optimize power grid performance."


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