Natural Power PhD develops power forecasting excellence

Through a collaboration between the world-class University of Strathclyde; Scotland's Innovation Centre for data and artificial intelligence, The Data Lab; and the leading renewable energy consultancy and service provider, Natural Power; a PhD completed by Rosemary Tawn, has developed a short-term (less than four hours) power forecasting system that demonstrates up to 20% improved forecast accuracy.

Iain Dinwoodie, Head of Advanced Performance Engineering at Natural Power, said: "Intermittent generation - such as wind and solar - poses a significant challenge to the balancing of the grid so the ability to accurately forecast minutes and hours ahead is essential for the continued growth of such renewable sources that are crucial to meet our national and international obligations.

"This project really highlights the benefits of academic collaboration with industry, bringing together brilliant minds and unrivalled data. By applying a unique combination of cutting-edge data science with domain knowledge from statistical learning, meteorology and operational experience, we have produced a world-leading forecasting system."
Natural Power is the biggest independent provider of control point services to generators in the UK. So, its ability to forecast accurately across its asset management contracts has very significant commercial impacts on both the individual generators and the UK grid as a whole.

The project has provided Natural Power with a robust methodology for using statistical, data driven, short-term forecasts, in conjunction with numerical weather prediction-based estimates, to create an optimum forecast for short and long-term power requirements. As a result, the system has overcome the real-world challenge of missing data which has been a barrier to using statistical data in wind power applications until this time.

Iain continued: "We benefit from a very close relationship with National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) and seek to protect that relationship with increasing forecast accuracy and the ability to contribute to the overall aim of minimising the costs of balancing."
Dr Jethro Browell, Senior Lecturer in Statistics, now at the University of Glasgow, said: "Directly engaging with industry on statistics and data science research - through mechanisms like this PhD - is an incredibly effective way of transferring cutting-edge technology from universities into the real world. It has been fantastic to see the benefits of academic research in practice, and to see Rosemary graduate with a hugely valuable skill set that is in high demand in the energy industry and Scotland's tech sector."

Heather Thomson, Head of Skills at The Data Lab said: "Providing students with the opportunity to develop and apply their research expertise in real world environments allows for knowledge transfer between academia and industry. The research, co-funded by The Data Lab in partnership with Natural Power through our Industrial Doctorate programme, reinforces the importance of funding research within renewable energy, which has benefits for not only Rosemary, but will help Natural Power with its long-term net zero goals."

Rosemary Tawn added: "Collaborating with Natural Power throughout my PhD has focused my research on current problems that are most relevant to industry and has allowed my work to have immediate impact in the real world. I am looking forward to continuing my career in the energy sector in Scotland and using data science to progress the energy transition."

The new power forecasting system has been implemented with immediate effect.

Natural Power works with a variety of clients across the globe to provide reliable data that supports project success. Its analytical services cover all stages of a project, from feasibility and development, through to operations and re-powering. Find out more here

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