Staying Ahead of the Storm

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Utilities Pursue High-Resolution Weather Forecasting to Support Planning, Restoration

Imagine a tool that can predict grid damage and outage locations hours before a major storm hits, enabling emergency response planners to dispatch crews and materials for faster restoration.

Mainstream weather forecasts such as the National Weather Service and weather.com lack the precision and local resolution that utilities need to effectively plan for storms and other weather events. EPRI’s Distribution Modernization and Grid Resiliency initiatives have collaborated with several utilities and research institutions to advance in-house high-resolution forecasting models.

One prototype, developed by Ameren Missouri and Saint Louis University, harnesses data from more than 100 weather stations to anticipate a storm’s path, magnitude, and resulting damage. EPRI is working with Ameren to enhance the model’s predictive ability with supplemental data sets, such as regional vegetation imagery and the utility’s geographic information system (GIS). Algorithms that predict damage to various tree species will be integrated with the GIS, and predictions will feed into Ameren’s outage management system. When completed, the tool will include a digital map interface that enables planners to see where outages are most likely to occur, guiding recovery actions.

Eversource and the University of Connecticut have also built a model that layers tree distribution over the grid to support high-resolution storm outage forecasts. Arizona Public Service and Arizona State University have a tool that predicts a day in advance how cloud cover will affect distributed solar generation, enabling the utility to plan for output reductions.

To make these tools more precise, EPRI is developing algorithms that help select optimal locations for weather stations in utility service territories. These algorithms will be tested in 2016.