Start-up addresses challenges of solar variability

Solcast solar forecasting technology ANU

Ultimately the technology will facilitate higher penetrations of solar energy into the grid.

As we transition to higher penetrations of renewable energy, the intermittency of solar power can create challenges for electricity networks.

To address this, ANU Fenner School lecturer, Dr Nick Engerer, has developed a way to predict changes in solar resources ahead of time, using sophisticated solar forecasting techniques.    

“This technology allows electricity networks to predict how much power they will receive from privately owned solar panels” said Dr Engerer.

“It will help networks manage electricity supply much better, on a daily basis and particularly in situations of extreme demand.   Ultimately the technology will facilitate higher penetrations of solar energy into the grid.”

The technology uses satellite weather images including cloud formations, movement and modelling to work out levels of solar radiation.    It combines this with data from thousands of solar PV systems around Australia to work out how much solar energy will be produced and is available for use on the grid. 

It is being trialled by nine network providers around Australia who are integrating its simulations into operational and strategic planning rooms.  The providers can then proactively manage solar PV integration challenges with solutions such as energy storage and demand management.

Under the project, ANU has established a start-up, “Solcast”, to operationalise the technology and provide a pathway to deliver solar intelligence to energy market institutions.    Solcast is now developing short and medium-term forecasts, out to 7 days ahead.

The forecasting methodology can be applied to large solar PV farms as well as household and commercial systems.     This has major benefits in managing the integration of large scale solar power into national electricity markets.

Australia is just the start for Dr Engerer and team.  With the technology developed and operationalised, it can begin providing solar forecasting services anywhere around the world.

The project has been funded with the assistance from Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

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Updated:  20 February 2019/Responsible Officer:  Director, Energy Change Institute/Page Contact:  Webmaster