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4 reasons why the energy industry needs better weather research

Accurate weather data both over the long-term and the near-future are increasingly important to the energy sector.

lighting over city weather
Image: Pixabay

Weather prediction has long been known to be linked to demand. However, evolving technology and customer demands are making accurate weather data increasingly important.

At the same time, energy sector investment is especially at risk due to weather, as we can all see when storms down power lines.

Here are four reasons why the energy industry needs better weather research that as is as good as we can get.

Accurate Predictions of Energy Production

Renewable energy is variable. The power put out by wind turbines depends on wind speeds. The amount of solar power generated by solar panels depends on the weather as well. This means weather forecasts are integral to the proper planning of energy production. No one wants to ramp up a natural gas turbine to meet customer demand because they think bad weather will reduce renewable energy production; that’s a waste of money, fuel, and effort.

Accurate and hyper-local weather reporting allows companies to respond immediately to local disasters like tornadoes or flooding striking a power plant. Then utilities are aware of the issue and can shift power generation to operational facilities. Better yet, they can safely shut down operations when there is sufficient notice, protecting capital resources.

Accurate regional weather reporting impacts the efficiency of renewable energy infrastructure. For example, you want to locate wind turbines where they’ll receive the most wind. Minor variations in wind speeds have a major impact on the power produced by wind turbines, whereas you don’t want to put wind turbines where wind speeds are too high for them to safely operate. The greater the accuracy of weather research, the greater the return on the investment of new wind farms.

Faster Service Restoration

One of the biggest benefits of accurate weather mapping for energy industry is that utility and restoration companies can quickly deploy repair crews to areas that are experiencing bad weather instead of waiting and hoping they get calls in from the affected areas. By sending people to the areas actually suffering the worst weather, they restore service as quickly as possible. The ability to tap into location specific forecasts and alerts means they will be aware of tornadoes and other threats in their area, so you don’t have to choose between rapid service for customers and the safety of your crew.

Better Projections of Customer Demand

Weather predictions are important to utilities because we know that energy demand goes up as the temperatures drop, or soar. When a warm front hits and summer temperatures spike, demand for power to run our air conditioners likewise spikes. More accurate weather reports and timely information allow utilities to carefully match energy supply with demand. This minimizes wasted energy production while reducing the risk of brownouts and blackouts.

Employee Safety

We’ve already addressed the risk posed to crews when they’re working out in a storm. However, accurate and timely weather reporting affects employee safety on other occasions as well. Maintenance technicians want to work on wind turbines when wind speeds are as low as possible. Anyone working outside in a physically demanding job is at risk when temperatures are above 100°. Weather reporting that warns them when sleet has turned into hail helps them to get inside before someone is hurt.

Accurate weather data both over the long-term and the near-future are increasingly important to the energy sector. This helps them save money, protect their people, maximize production and minimize waste.

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