Weather forecasting for renewables Nowcasting

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has awarded almost $1 million to support new technology that optimises renewable energy output through weather forecasting.

Solcast received $994,685 for a live demonstration of gridded, automatic renewable energy generation forecasts.

Solcast’s Gridded Renewables Nowcasting Demonstration project aims to enhance existing weather forecast services by developing a proof of concept demonstration of a forecasting tool which will track and predict renewable output in real time.

The forecasting tool will aim to predict up to six hours ahead in five-minute increments, distributed into 1-2km grids across SA.

The 12 month project will deliver more frequently updated, high resolution weather forecasts specifically designed for the Australian energy industry.

Solcast will track the real-time evolution of weather systems over SA and forecast the positions and characteristics of cloud cover, as well as improve predictions of wind-speeds at the wind turbine nacelles (above ground) enabling energy generation to be forecast with greater accuracy.

The forecasts will also focus on six hour ahead forecasting to provide more accurate information for grid operation and enhanced management of generation, energy storage, and demand response.

Formed in 2016, Solcast is an Australian-based company made up of meteorologists, data scientists and engineers. Now with offices in Sydney, Canberra and Glasgow, Solcast provides data and modelling tools for solar power systems with 6000 users across the world.

Solcast previously received ARENA funding as part of the $9 million short term forecasting round to deploy 8 stand-alone self-forecasting trials at solar farms in the NEM to combine real-time solar farm data and sky-imagers to generate short-term power output predictions of 5 minutes or less.

Solcast will utilise a range of data sets and data streams, including historical surface meteorological measurement data and wind and solar farm weather data, to develop high quality forecasts.

These forecasts will be shared via project partners, Weatherzone and TESLA Asia Pacific, to be assessed and used by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), the local distribution network operator (SA Power Networks), and generator asset operators.

This initiative aims to provide the energy industry with enhanced situational awareness and more precise forecasts to support the management of the grid. As part of its commitment and support of the project, AEMO will undertake a key role in testing and verifying the project outputs.

ARENA CEO, Darren Miller, said Solcast’s project could help solar and wind farms, networks as well as the grid overall by improving accuracy of forecasts.

“Renewable generation forecasts, particularly in the intraday time-frame, are critical for effective management of the electricity system with growing shares of large-scale variable renewable energy, energy storage, distributed energy resources and emerging demand management capability which are at the front and centre of innovation in the energy industry,” Mr Miller said.

“If Solcast’s Nowcasting project delivers positive results for South Australia, we could see it rolled out to the rest of the National Electricity Market as we see growing renewable energy generation in other states and territories.”

Dr Nick Engerer, Chief Technology Officer at Solcast, said South Australia currently leads the world with its dependency on renewable energy generation, particularly rooftop solar.

“Through this project, we’ll ensure it does the same with weather forecasting technology,” he said.

AEMO’s acting Chief Operations Officer, Matthew Clemow, said that AEMO was looking forward to supporting the project and working with Solcast on this highly innovative initiative.

“Situational awareness and operational forecasting are critical functions for AEMO as the generation fleet becomes increasingly weather dependent,” Mr Clemow said.

“We are confident that through this initiative, Solcast, backed by ARENA, will provide enhanced forecasting products and services to support our role in shaping a better energy future for all Australians.”

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