IBM has developed power and weather modelling software that could help utilities increase the reliability of renewable energy resources.
IBM says the technology combines weather prediction and analytics to forecast the availability of wind power and solar energy.
The American firm claims this will allow utilities to integrate more renewable energy into the power grid, helping to reduce carbon emissions while improving clean energy output for consumers and businesses.
The solution, named Hybrid Renewable Energy Forecasting (HyRef), uses weather modelling capabilities, advanced cloud imaging technology and sky-facing cameras to track cloud movements, while sensors on the turbines monitor wind speed, temperature and direction.
When combined with analytics technology, the data-assimilation based solution can produce local weather forecasts within a wind farm as far as one month in advance, or in 15-minute increments.
By utilising local weather forecasts, IBM claims HyRef can predict the performance of each individual wind turbine and estimate the amount of generated renewable energy.
According to IBM, this level of insight can help 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 could also allow energy organisations to integrate other conventional sources such as coal and natural gas.
"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," said vice admiral Dennis McGinn, CEO of the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE). "The weather modelling and forecasting data generated from HyRef will significantly improve this process and in turn, put us one step closer to maximising the full potential of renewable resources."
State Grid Jibei Electricity Power Company Limited (SG-JBEPC), a subsidiary company of the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), is using HyRef to integrate renewable energy into the grid. This initiative led by SG-JBEPC is phase one of the Zhangbei 670MW demonstration project, the world's largest renewable energy initiative that combines wind and solar power, energy storage and transmission. This project contributes to China's five-year plan to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.
By using the IBM wind forecasting technology, phase one of the Zhangbei project aims to increase the integration of renewable power generation by 10 percent. This amount of additional energy can power roughly more than 14,000 homes.
Brad Gammons, general manager of IBM's global energy and utilities industry, said 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.