Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


More reliable forecasts for water flows can reduce price of electricity

Brazil, Canada, China, the US, Russia, Norway, Japan, and Sweden are among the largest producers of hydroelectric power in the world.

One problem for hydroelectric power companies is that the great variations in the river flow and the lack of long-term forecasts make it difficult for power companies to determine how much water in their dams should be saved or released.

But by scaling down information from global climate models and combining it with local measurement data, researchers at the Lund University School of Engineering (LTH) have developed a method that yields four-month forecasts that are twice as reliable as similar methods for run-off forecasts. The findings are published in the coming issue of Hydrology Research, and the model will be tested by StatKraft in Norway.

In Scandinavia, dry and cold winters entail heating needs in general, as well as a risk that the levels of hydropower reservoirs are low by springtime as a result of high electricity consumption. If the melted snow is not sufficient to fill the dams, this can lead to drastically elevated electricity prices later in the year.

The power companies' need for long-term forecasting is often greatest now during the winter, even though there is also need for a somewhat earlier indication of coming water resources throughout the year.

"By predicting spring water resources as early as December-January, it is possible to steer electricity production so that water reservoirs are emptied more slowly, thus avoiding dramatic price hikes in subsequent seasons. The need to control water flows is all the greater because the value of water in the dams varies apace with the price of electricity," says Cintia Bertacchi Uvo, professor of water resources engineering at LTH.

Today there is no reliable way of knowing well in advance how much water will be available in Swedish and Norwegian rivers, and thereby in water reservoirs, following the spring snow melt.

The climate phenomena that are correlated in the computer-based model are natural variations in the powerful and constant low and high pressure systems that are found over the North Atlantic (North Atlantic Oscillation, NAO) and that are already known to be of great importance in determining whether the Scandinavian winter will be mild and rainy or dry and cold, which it has been in December and January. The model, that Lund scientists have developed in collaborations with South African researchers from the University of Pretoria and the South African Weather Service, also takes account of data on temperatures and on wind direction and strength, from which it is possible to estimate how much snow should accumulate during winter.

"The only thing needed to apply the method locally is to fill in historical data, as far back as possible, about water flows from the river that feeds the power station," explains Kean Foster, who holds a master's degree in water resources engineering. "It is possible to apply the method in different countries with varying time conditions depending on the country's climate."

The scientists have shown that it is possible to apply global climate models locally by correlating historical data over a fifty-year period from different global climate models with data on water volumes per second in Scandinavian rivers, such as the Torne River in the north, from the same period. To achieve good results, it is important to use multiple climate models simultaneously and to combine the results.

Today power companies use relatively accurate short-term run-off forecasts that are based on a combination of hydrological models and weather forecasts. But their long-term forecasts are less reliable. Their long-term run-off forecasts are calculated by running the hydrological models with two weather scenarios, one that yields low run-off and one that yields high run-off, which provides two extremes that the long-term planning can be based on.

"The problem with this method is that the run-off can wind up anywhere at all within this interval. A climate forecast like the one we have devised provides better probability for future run-off scenarios, which makes it possible to plan and prioritize different strategies," explains Kean Foster.

"A concrete example that illustrates the need for forecasts occurred in the spring of 2003, when energy prices in Sweden more than tripled in a short time. The reason was that precipitation that normally comes in the autumn had not materialized. If the hydroelectric power stations had had access to relevant climate forecasts during the summer and autumn, they would not have emptied the water reservoirs prematurely, which is what happened," concludes Cintia Bertacchi Uvo, professor of water resources engineering at the Lund University School of Engineering and the researcher who initiated the project.

For more information, please contact Cintia Bertacchi Uvo, professor, Water Resources Engineering, phone: +46 (0)46-222 04 35, and Kean Foster,, mobile phone: +46 (0)73-644 07 10

Pressofficer: Kristina Lindgärde; +46-709 753 500;

Kristina Lindgärde | idw
Further information:

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging
25.10.2016 | Colorado State University

nachricht Did you know that infrared heating is an essential part of automotive manufacture?
25.10.2016 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>