With record-low wind speeds continuing to raise concerns among U.S. wind investors and operators, Vaisala has released its forecast for the first quarter of 2016.
According to Vaisala, the forecast anticipates that key wind operating areas, such as Texas, the Midwest and the Northeast, will see low-wind conditions that are much less severe than the same period last year but that, nonetheless, fall below long-term averages. On the flip side, western states, including California, Oregon and Washington – home to 11.8 GW of wind capacity – will, by contrast, see a marked increase in wind speeds.
Following the impact of an irregular first quarter this year – during which wind production in Southern California fell to just 64% of 2014 levels – Vaisala's latest forecast suggests that those projects located in the footprint of the California Independent System Operator should see a major recovery in wind power deliveries. The same is true ofÂ the Bonneville Power Administration, the Pacific Northwest power market that encompasses Washington, Oregon, Idaho and portions of other nearby states. This is due to the larger number of storms that typically sweep through the region during a strong El Nino, which could also help ease drought conditions in California.
Wind speeds are expected to remain lower than the historical average for the first quarter of the year in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and the Southwest Power Pool areas where a high concentration of wind capacity has been installed. However, compared with the same period this year, wind speeds are expected to be 10% to 20% higher than last year during the same financial period.
According to Vaisala, energy markets in the Midwest and Northeast are not expected to see a large improvement in wind conditions from last year. However, the warmer and milder winter conditions El NiÃ±o is expected to bring could also drive down energy demand and place less of a burden on the transmission system.