Meteorologists essential to utilities

When you hear the word “meteorologist,” an image of your local TV weatherman may come to mind.

But, being a meteorologist does not always mean being prepared for the 5 o’clock weather report.

As a utility, Duke Energy staffs a meteorology team to support a variety of weather-related needs, including forecasting for daily generation, demand and dispatch support, storm alerts, emergency preparedness and more.

“We provide weather forecasting for the Carolinas, the Midwest and Florida – our models provide outlook for the generation output each day,” Duke Energy Director of Meteorology Nick Keener said. “Forecasting allows the company to optimize its generation portfolio … we start work very early in the morning to provide weather input into the daily load forecast model.”

Of course, meteorologists play an important role in forecasting severe weather and providing resources when a major storm strikes. Not only does the meteorology team support generation facilities during severe weather, but they also provide critical coverage for dispatch when dealing with major weather-related outages.

“We predict weather impacts to our service areas, which include prediction of resource needs, as well as supporting emergency planning across the enterprise during large storm events,” Keener said. “During large storm events, the team can provide continuous coverage to emergency planning organizations.”

Keener also said his team provides rain forecasts for drainage basins that support Duke’s hydro operations – that includes creating forecasts that show how rainfall and drought affect operations and impact to shorelines.

Marsha Kinley, a lead meteorologist for Duke Energy, is responsible for weather-related services for the company’s nuclear fleet.

Kinley is responsible for coordinating with each station’s Operations group when severe weather is possible. Real time weather data is directly tied into the Operations control room at each nuclear facility, where operators can see exactly what is going on outside.

Kinley also provides expertise for onsite flooding issues. In 2015, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) worked with the nuclear industry to prepare for onsite flood potential (in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan). Kinley provides modeling to determine how much precipitation could likely fall on site.

Each Duke Energy nuclear site has a meteorological tower that detects wind speed and direction, precipitation and dew points, Kinley said. Part of Duke Energy's job is to detect air quality to ensure that the plant is operating safely in its community. An environmental team provides daily review, checks instrumentation and works with the engineering groups on issues.

There are a lot of important careers working for a utility – being a part of the meteorology team is certainly one of them.

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