IBM Big Data Analytics Powers Renewable Energy Forecasting System

IBM announced a new system, known as Hybrid Renewable Energy Forecasting (HyRef), which uses big data analytics to predict the availability of renewable energy.

IBM asserts its big data prominence once again, this time in a new system from IBM Research to help bring more renewable energy to the power grid by predicting the availability of such energy.

IBM announced an advanced power- and weather-modeling technology that will help utilities increase the reliability of renewable energy resources. The solution combines weather prediction and analytics to accurately forecast the availability of wind power and solar energy. This will enable utilities to integrate more renewable energy into the power grid, helping to reduce carbon emissions while improving clean energy output.

The solution, called "Hybrid Renewable Energy Forecasting" (HyRef), uses weather modeling capabilities, advanced cloud imaging technology and sky-facing cameras to track cloud movements, while sensors on the turbines monitor wind speed, temperature and direction, IBM said. When combined with analytics technology, the data-assimilation-based solution can produce accurate local weather forecasts within a wind farm as far as one month in advance, or in 15-minute increments, according to Big Blue.

Using local weather forecasts, HyRef can predict the performance of each individual wind turbine and estimate the amount of generated renewable energy. This level of insight will enable 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 will also allow energy organizations to easily integrate other conventional sources such as coal and natural gas, IBM said.

"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, president and CEO of the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE), in a statement. "The weather modeling and forecasting data generated from HyRef will significantly improve this process and, in turn, put us one step closer to maximizing the full potential of renewable resources."

HyRef is an example of how IBM truly is working on helping to enable a Smarter Planet. IBM is involved in more than 150 smart-grid engagements around the world, in both mature and emerging markets.

For instance, 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, a large, 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, IBM said.

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 more than 14,000 homes. The efficient use of generated energy allows the utility to reduce wind and solar curtailment while analytics provides the needed intelligence to enhance grid operations.

"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," said Brad Gammons, general manager of IBM's Global Energy and Utilities Industry group, in a statement. "We have developed an intelligent system that combines weather and power forecasting to increase system availability and optimize power grid performance."