How Wrong Can the Operational AEP Uncertainty Estimate Be When We Ignore the Correlations Between the Uncertainty Components?

Nicola Bodini, Mike Optis

Research output: NRELPresentation


Calculations of wind farm annual energy production (AEP) on operational data are essential for a variety of financial transactions during the life of wind plants. The AEP estimate is associated with an uncertainty value, which is calculated by combining contributions connected to on-site measurements, long-term reference measurements, losses, regression, windiness adjustment, and wind resource interannual variability. Although very limited documentation on the topic exists, the conventional approach currently used by the wind energy community to assess the uncertainty connected to the operational AEP estimate assume that the different uncertainty components are uncorrelated and therefore calculates the overall uncertainty with a sum of squares approach. In this analysis, we contrast the traditional technique to estimate the overall AEP uncertainty by ignoring the correlation between its different components with a novel Monte Carlo based approach, which can instead take into account the correlation between different uncertainty categories. We consider monthly operational data from 472 wind farms from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) 923 database to assess the difference between the two approaches. Long-term wind speed data needed for the AEP assessment are taken from three reanalysis products: the Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications v2 (MERRA-2), the European Reanalysis Interim (ERA-interim), and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction v2 (NCEP-2). The results of the Monte Carlo approach show that three pairs of AEP uncertainty components do show a statistically significant correlation: the uncertainty connected with wind resource inter-annual variability is positively correlated with the one related to the windiness correction and negatively correlated with the one due to the regression, and the wind measurement uncertainty is positively correlated with the regression uncertainty. All these correlations, which are found between uncertainty components which are not only part of an operational analysis, but also of a wind resource assessment, are currently ignored in the conventional techniques used as industry standard. We further investigate the causes of these correlations, in terms of common dependencies of different uncertainty components on wind resource variability, number of data points, and quality of the regression between wind speed and energy production data. Next, we quantify the error in the current industry standard technique, in terms of the percentage difference in total uncertainty calculated with the two considered approaches, for all the analyzed wind farms. We find a mean absolute percentage difference of about 6%, with the largest differences being greater than 20%. The data clearly confirm that ignoring the actual correlation between the uncertainty components can lead to large errors in the assessment of the operational AEP uncertainty, and the proposed Monte Carlo approach should be preferred.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages11
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NamePresented at the WindEurope Technology Workshop 2020, 8-11 June 2020

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5000-77186


  • Monte Carlo
  • operational analysis
  • uncertainty


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