SMECO Selected for NASA Pilot

HUGHESVILLE, Md. (Nov. 27, 2009)—Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) has been selected as one of only two electric utilities to participate in a pilot study using NASA data for load forecasting. This pilot project will test methods for improving load forecasts for electric and gas utilities by making use of the weather data that NASA collects though satellites orbiting the earth and analyzes with its developmental models.

SMECO's participation was set up through project lead Battelle and partner Ventyx, which provides short-term load forecasting software to SMECO. If the project is successful in improving SMECO's ability to forecast its need for power supply and reducing the co-op's power supply costs, NASA's data and model results will be made available to utilities around the country.

Currently, SMECO uses weather data from three sites located at Andrews Air Force Base, Patuxent River Naval Air Station, and Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. NASA's model-analyzed satellite data are provided by 16 grid points in and around Southern Maryland. In addition to temperature, the data include relative humidity, wind speed and direction, precipitation, cloud cover, and solar energy.

Because current load forecasts use data from just a few land-based weather stations, they fail to capture larger patterns and microclimates across the area. Refining the weather data with NASA inputs could lead to substantial cost savings.

The goals of the project are to determine whether NASA satellite weather data will improve load forecasting; to conduct real-time testing and demonstrate improvements in load forecasts; to make data and improvements to load forecasting tools available to utilities nationwide; and to identify how the data and projection tools can be used for long-term planning. The project, funded by NASA Applied Sciences, is a partnership between Battelle, Ventyx, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, and NASA Langley Research Center.

Source: SMECO

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