Limitations of reanalysis data for wind power applications
Wind energy resource estimates commonly depend on simulated wind speed profiles generated by reanalysis or weather models due to the lack of long time series measurements with sufficient coverage at relevant heights (roughly 90 m above ground). However, modeled data, including reanalyses, can be noisy and display a wide range of biases and errors, variously attributed to terrain effects, poor coverage of assimilated inputs, and model resolution. Wind generation records, if available at high temporal and geographical resolution, can provide a proxy for wind measurements and allow for evaluation of reanalyses and weather model wind time series. We use a 7-year-long data set of hourly, plant-level generation records from over 100 wind plants across Texas to evaluate two commonly used reanalysis data sets (MERRA2 and ERA5). Additionally, we use 1-year of records (2019) to evaluate an operational, high-resolution regional weather modeling product (HRRR v3). We find that across the region, and across all modeling products, the modeled representation of wind generation (i.e., wind speeds at hub heights passed through a power curve) has relatively small mean errors when aggregated daily, but that accuracy and hourly correlation have a strong diurnal sensitivity. Accuracy and correlation systematically decline through the evening and markedly improve after sunrise. These diurnal patterns persist even in the highest resolution model tested (HRRR v3). We hypothesize the nighttime decline in accuracy is mostly due to poorly represented boundary layer conditions, perhaps related to model representation of stability, while other uncertainties (such as wake effects) play a secondary role.