The renewable energy industry has always had an intense focus on the weather forecast.
For wind farms, you need to know the strength of tomorrow’s wind. For solar, you need to know the intensity of the sun, the cloud cover, and more. For hydro, you need to know the risks of floods and droughts.
Unfortunately, climate change has added a new wrinkle into the world of renewables. Weather is more volatile than ever before, making it much harder to predict and adapt to the weather and therefore, harder to generate reliable power.
For example, Spanish utility Iberdrola had a record high hydropower output in 2016, but then in 2017, output dropped a massive 57%. The only thing that changed? The weather.
In the world of renewable energy, this type of volatility shows the vital importance of actionable weather data for planning, managing, and ultimately, generating power. Here’s why every renewable company needs to invest in weather intelligence.
Millions Lost by Renewable Energy Companies Each Year
The risks posed by not understanding and proactively managing weather conditions are vast and can get a little complicated. It may seem like an issue you can ignore, but when you lay out the numbers, the costs can be staggering.
- Cloud cover: On a partly cloudy day, production can drop by 10% to 25%, costing solar operators more than $5.25 billion a year.
- Heat: For each degree above 77 degrees, PV panels become 1% less efficient.
- Hail or lightning: Can damage your panels, which cost an average of $41,000 to replace.
- High Winds: While turbines are meant to harness wind energy, they can also be damaged by gusts of wind over 60 MPH.
- Hail or lightning: Can damage or destroy turbines, which cost up to $2.2 million.
- Extreme temperatures: Many turbines are located in remote areas, which are subject to extreme temperatures swings ranging from -22ºF to 131ºF.
- Drought: In a severe drought, electricity generation levels can drop as much as 88%.
- Floods: Flooding can overwhelm and damage the transformer and electrical equipment within hydro systems, which can cost up to $10,000 to repair.
- Lightning: Electric surges from lightning strikes can damage computerized control units.
Adapting Better to the Weather
For each of these industries, everyday weather conditions and extreme weather events can have a huge impact on energy production and the bottom line. Whether it’s damage to expensive equipment, or lost energy production from a storm, the weather is constantly costing you money.
This is exactly why you need accurate and actionable weather data to power your operations. If you’re using the same weather forecast to choose your outfit for the day as you use to run your operations, it’s not a good sign.
Now is the time to automate operational decision-making and action plans to help you increase efficiency, reduce risk, and decrease unnecessary costs. With the right data, you can utilize upcoming weather to improve and maximize hydro, solar, and wind output.
Improve Crew Safety and Maintenance
The weather not only impacts your equipment and energy production on a daily basis, it also impacts your people. Whether it’s a thunderstorm or a flood, weather can put your teams at risk when they’re exposed and working on equipment in the field.
Using actionable weather insights, you not only know the weather conditions, but can actively alert everyone on how to handle it. For example, if you see a storm is approaching for the end of the week, you can schedule regular maintenance crews to finish up work before the storm — minimizing risk to both people and equipment.
The same goes true for unmanned maintenance crews like drones. With workplace fatalities in transportation, warehousing, and utilities accounting for 17.3% of all U.S. workforce fatalities, drones are increasingly used to access or inspect dangerous or difficult-to-reach spots, reducing the risk to workers.
But the weather can also put your valuable drones at risk. You need to make decisions around when to fly or not fly expensive equipment, which could cost as much as $5,000. You can even optimize the flight path of your drones to ensure there is less exposure to wind or rain on the route.
Weather with Intelligence
Whether you’re looking to improve your energy output or keep people and equipment safe, you need weather insights.
With actionable data on hand, you can better optimize your operations to take advantage of favorable weather conditions, and better protect from dangerous weather risks.