Vattenfall: “Water is the fuel for our hydropower stations, so forecasts are very important”

Mikael Sundby

For Swedish energy company Vattenfall, which owns many wind and hydropower plants in several countries in Europe, weather forecasts are very important as they increase the accuracy of their own electricity production forecasts. 

According to Mikael Sundby, a hydrologist and planner of hydropower production at the Swedish utility, the more Vattenfall invests in developing new renewable energy, the more important it becomes for them to have access to reliable forecasts.

Forecasts provide important input to Vattenfall’s own production forecasts, making these more accurate, Sundby explains in this video.

Future weather is a big uncertainty 

“Since the hydro inflow is the fuel for our hydropower stations, forecasts are very important… One of the big uncertainties in our planning is how the inflow to our hydropower stations will develop,” Sundby says in the video.

Vattenfall has until now mainly been using short-term forecasts, but forecasts for the weeks and months ahead could also be very useful for them, he explains.

“We usually use simply a short-term forecast, and after that statistics, or climatology, as we call it. If we can improve that and get a better estimate through sub-seasonal and seasonal forecasting, that would for sure increase the accuracy of our input data, and also of our production forecasts,” says Sundby.

Forecasts are also important for wind power production

Vattenfall is Sweden’s biggest electricity producer and its hydropower stations there together account for about 50% of the country’s power production. The Swedish utility also owns hydropower stations in Finland, Germany and the Netherlands, and is currently increasing its investments in developing new wind turbines.

“These are economic investments, of course, and then we need to have good forecasting methods. Wind production is also dependent on good forecasting. With better forecasting of wind, you can manage wind farms in a more effective way,” says Sundby.

In addition to providing important input to their wind power production forecasts, long-term wind forecasts can also help wind farm operators plan for maintenance work on their wind turbines to occur at times “when wind production is expected to be low”, he said.

If a wind turbine is shut down temporarily to undergo maintenance work at times of low wind, this results in lower financial losses for the turbine owner than if it were to be shut down when wind levels – and hence also wind power production – are high.

Video by: Eilif Ursin Reed /CICERO. Text by: Iselin Rønningsbakk / CICERO.