The unpredictability of wind power and solar energy based on changes in the weather may become less of a problem for power suppliers, says IBM.

Big Blue on Monday unveiled its “Hybrid Renewable Energy Forecasting,” which it says will help utilities forecast the availability of wind power and solar energy and thus improve integration of sustainable energy into power grids.

Called HyRef, the IBM system incorporates weather modeling, advanced cloud imaging and sky-facing cameras that track clouds.

Other sensors monitor wind speed, temperature and direction.

All the data is then analyzed to produce what IBM calls “accurate local weather forecasts within a wind farm as far as one month in advance, or in 15-minute increments.”

 HyRef already is being used in a number of smart grid projects.

“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. “We have developed an intelligent system that combines weather and power forecasting to increase system availability and optimize power grid performance.”

HyRef is part of IBM’s SmarterPlanet initiative.

Improved weather analysis means utilities can better manage energy resources down to individual wind turbines, says IBM.

“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,” Big Blue explained. “It will also allow energy organizations to easily integrate other conventional sources such as coal and natural gas.”

eWeek says the new technology demonstrates IBM’s strength in use of “big data.”

“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,” eWeek reported.

IBM employs some 10,000 people across North Carolina.

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