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Using radar data to enhance the accuracy of water inflow forecasts

The more precisely hydropower plant operators can forecast future water inflows, the more efficiently the plants can generate electricity. This key principle was one of the catalysts for the “Radar4Infra” project. Its objective is to make better use of weather radar data for short-term forecasts of water volumes. Alpiq is the project’s industry partner.

Storms and heavy precipitation can potentially have a very severe impact on the population and the infrastructure. By making effective use of all the available meteorological measurements, differentiated forecasts and the measures derived from them, the risks can be significantly reduced. Alpiq operates a number of hydropower plants and hopes to derive a variety of benefits from the “Radar4Infra” project. Water inflows have always played a key role in the generation of electricity from hydroelectric power. This is why forecasts of natural inflows are crucial to the operation of the power plants. The project seeks to provide insights into how radar data can be used to improve short-term forecasts up to 24 hours. Initial results of the project are expected for mid-2022.

Relevant forecasts of the water inflow volumes to be expected offer many advantages. First of all, they allow water wastage to be minimised by optimising the available storage volumes. Sound forecasts of natural inflows help optimise turbine times and minimise the use of pumps. They also enable Alpiq to optimise its ancillary services portfolio for grid balancing. Finally, these forecasts help minimise deviations in the adjustment between planned and generated energy and optimise the deployment of power plants. The data from meteorological radars and other measurements are thus immensely important for the safe and optimal operation of hydropower plants.

The “Radar4Infra” project is supported by Innosuisse, the Swiss Innovation Agency. Among other things, this means that 50% of the project costs will be covered by federal funding. Alpiq is the main project partner, together with the canton of Valais, the Hydrique engineering company and MeteoSwiss. The project was conceived as a result of the collaboration between MeteoSwiss, Hydrique and Alpiq. Alpiq has been incorporating the forecasts into its operational processes for several years, both directly by the operating staff at the power plants and by the optimisation team for the operational planning of the hydropower plants.