Predicting Where The Wind Will Blow

Utilities worldwide are searching for better accuracy

Xcel Energy is shutting down some of its coal-fired plants for hours or days—not because of environmental pressure or legislative changes that mandate it, but because it has a new tool to work with: accurate wind forecasts. The readings are part of a project that Minneapolis-based Xcel, the largest U.S. wind-power producer, is working on with Colorado's National Center for Atmospheric Research. NCAR feeds data collected by satellites, aircraft, and weather stations into supercomputers to figure when Xcel can turn off coal-fired plants and substitute power from hundreds of wind turbines deployed across the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

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