Will Computer Models take over Wind Meteorology Jobs?12 Dec , 2011 | 5
The future of wind energy meteorology is causing some people to worry. In my previous post, I talked about how some wind energy companies are hiring entry level meteorology graduates for wind meteorologist jobs. However, many wind meteorologists are starting to worry that computer models will take over wind meteorology jobs in the near future and there will be no need to have them around.
There are numerous computer models being developed both publicly and privately around the world to bring major precision and accuracy to wind and solar energy forecasting. NOAA (with the help of private partners) just launched WFIP (Wind Forecast Improvement Project). You can read about it here: I’ve also put an image of it above.
Other weather data providers like Custom weather have introduced a model where the resolution is so high that they can model wind at the location of each individual wind farm tower. However, there are still numerous studies being done on the accuracy of these computer models…not only against observations, but against each other!
Bottom line, weather models for wind energy continue to improve and it is a growing field in today’s renewable energy/weather space. So, it begs me to ask this question:
Do wind meteorologists need to be around if computer models can accurately forecast the wind?
My answer is still YES. I still believe that human analysis and communication is necessary to ensure accuracy. Weather models by itself will never be perfect. There are still data errors, terrain and topography issues, and parameters that always need to be adjusted.
One analogy that comes to mind is if there is a need for pilots if computers can technically auto-pilot the plane. I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable if two professional pilots were not in the cockpit. Yes, it’s true that wind meteorologists don’t have to worry about the safety of people on board an aircraft…but my point is I wouldn’t trust a weather model alone for a company’s bottom line.
For example, I’ve worked on a trade floor where there were wind meteorologists supporting real time power traders. A wind data vendor would submit their hourly forecasts and it would come up on the trader’s screen. The trader would quickly analyze the data but routinely ask a series of questions for the wind meteorologist:
Questions such as, “Hey I see this major drop off of wind hours ending 8 to 12…what do you think?”. “Do you think this vendor is right?” “How confident are you that this vendor forecast is correct?” And the questions go on and on….
The wind meteorologist would also submit their forecasts to the traders and have a written thought process behind their forecast and how they differ (or agree) with the vendor. You can read more about the role of a wind meteorologist, here.
Now imagine taking away the wind meteorologist in this situation. The trader would just have to assume the vendor data is correct. And in my opinion, the trader should not be in the business of wind analysis and forecasting. He should just focus on trading and figure out how to make money for the company. Let’s have the professional, (ie wind meteorologist) handle it.
Bottom line, it’s a losing proposition to just have the model alone forecast the weather…even if it is proven to be “accurate”. Trust me, I’ve seen many instances where wind meteorologists correct the weather data providers and help make money for the trader.
So even though weather models for wind continue to get more and more accurate…it doesn’t mean that it’s worth the human capital of a wind meteorologist. I hope employers remember that for the near future.
What do you think? Do you think wind meteorologists have a reason to worry? Any current wind meteorologists, I’d love to hear your opinion too. Thanks! (Photo credit: NOAA)