Field project to help improve wind forecasts for wind farms

Photo of teachers in sub-zero ice core storage freezer.

Wind turbines against a beautiful backdrop.

On October 1, 2015, the Wind Forecast Improvement Project 2 (WFIP 2) will begin 18-months of comprehensive wind measurements during a field campaign in the Columbia River Gorge. The goal of the project is to increase the reliability of wind forecasts in regions of complex terrain to support the operation of wind farms.

The Columbia River Gorge terrain includes mountains, canyons, and coastlines, and experiences a variety of complex flow including frontal passages, strong cross-barrier flow, mountain waves, topographic wakes, convective outflow, and marine pushes. Accurate wind forecasts are one of the most significant problems in wind energy integration into the power grid, and reliable forecasts are critical for managers to make optimal decisions about base load generation to supplement or replace wind-generated energy.

WFIP 2 is a four-year, Department of Energy- led project to improve short-term weather forecast models and increase understanding of physical phenomena such as stability, turbulence, and low-level jets that affect wind energy generation in regions of complex terrain. The WFIP 2 team also plans to develop decision support tools such as probabilistic forecast information, uncertainty quantification, and forecast reliability for system operations.

WFIP 2 is led by a steering committee that includes members from the Department of Energy, Vaisala, and NOAA. NOAA ESRL’s Global Systems Division, Global Monitoring Division, Chemical Sciences Division, and Physical Sciences Division all contribute to WFIP 2 Sub Teams that include experimental design, instruments, modeling, data, uncertainty quantification, verification and validation, and decision support.

WFIP 2 will deploy a network of instruments to measure wind variability, solar radiation, and clouds. These measurements will provide insight into the structure and evolution of complex flows important for wind energy applications.

The WFIP 2 Model Development team focus is to improve model physics in complex terrain. They will work with short-term, 0-15 hour forecasts to next day forecasts using NOAA’s 13km resolution Rapid-Refresh model (RAP), the 3km High-Resolution Rapid-Refresh (HRRR) model, as well as a 0.75km nest within the HRRR.. The team will utilize the new observations to improve the model physics of RAP/ HRRR, and looking beyond the surface layer and boundary layer parameterizations to include those related to cloud physics (fog, stratus, and shallow cumulus) and radiative processes, to achieve a physically consistent physics suite that improves forecasts of low-level winds.

The Data team will make sure the data is quality controlled and organized effectively, and the Uncertainty Quantification Team will better understand the model’s sensitivity to the parameters of the model. The Verification and Validation Team will define a strategy to make sure the model improvements have been quantified and documented.

The WFIP 2 team includes Vaisala, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory, and NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, the University of Colorado, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Sharply Focused, Lockheed Martin, Texas Tech University, and University of Notre Dame.

WFIP 2 supports NOAA’s goals of an improved scientific understanding of the changing climate system and its impacts, and assessments of the climate system that identify potential impacts and inform science, service, and stewardship decisions.

For more information contact: Melinda Marquis, 303-497-4487,