Researchers at Texas Tech’s National Wind Institute will be part of a $2.5 million government research project to improve short-term wind forecasting capabilities in mountainous terrain on the west coast.
Brian Ancell, an assistant professor of atmospheric sciences, said this is the second phase of the wind research project, with the first phase based in the flat Texas plains from 2011-14. Research on both the plains and in the mountains is aimed at trying to improve forecasts, especially in relation to the operation of wind turbines, he said.
The project is led by Vaisala, a company known for manufacturing environmental measuring devices. The project is part of the Wind Forecast Improvement Project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
“We’re excited to be working with Vaisala, Texas Tech and other partners on this important project. Scientists have made great progress in recent years in improving wind energy forecasts for wind farms, and this new project will result in even more detailed and accurate forecasts in mountainous areas,” said Sue Ellen Haupt, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Weather Systems and Assessment Program in Boulder, Colo.
The mountain study will be conducted in the Columbia River Gorge, which cuts through the Cascade Mountains between Washington State and Oregon.
Ancell said that area is hard to forecast because of variables, including drainage flows, where cold air sinks down the mountainsides. At other times, he said the Pacific Ocean cools the western side and hotter air on the eastern side of the Cascades leads to strong winds through the gap.
“There’s certain atmospheric phenomenon in mountainous areas that create wind,” Ancell said.
Ancell said the project could have taken place anywhere, but the scientists wanted to improve the physics model, which is valid everywhere. They chose to do it in one of the most challenging areas, he said.
Fixing the physics model will allow more accurate predictions of thunderstorms and winter storms, Ancell said. That would apply to more than just wind energy on turbine farms, but to weather forecasts for everyone, he said.
Texas Tech, along with the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Vaisala, will be working on the modeling with the data gathered in the first year and a half of the project, Ancell said, but Tech will not be involved in data gathering for the project.
Other partners in the wind research project are the University of Notre Dame, the University of Colorado, Sharply Focused, Lockheed Martin, Iberdrola Renewables, Southern California Edison, Cowlitz County Public Untility District, Eurus Energy, Bonneville Power Administration and Portland General Electric.
This article was written by Karen Michael from Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.