Solar forecasts are aim of $4.1M NCAR project

By: Steve Monday February 25, 2013 0 comments Tags: Boulder, DOE, NCAR, Sue Ellen Haupt, Thomas Bogdan

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BOULDER - The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) announced it is spearheading a three-year, nationwide project to create unprecedented, 36-hour forecasts of incoming solar energy for solar energy plants.

An NCAR research team is designing a prototype system to forecast sunlight and resulting power every 15 minutes over specific solar facilities, enabling utilities to continuously anticipate the amount of available solar energy.

The work, funded with a $4.1 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, will draw on cutting-edge research techniques as leading government and university labs across the nation in partnership with utilities, other energy companies and commercial forecast providers.

"It's critical for utility managers to know how much sunlight will be reaching solar energy plants in order to have confidence that they can supply sufficient power when their customers need it," said Sue Ellen Haupt, director of NCAR's weather systems and assessment program.

"These detailed cloud and irradiance forecasts are a vital step in using more energy from the Sun."

The project takes aim at one of the greatest challenges in meteorology: Accurately predicting cloud cover over specific areas. In addition to helping utility tap solar energy more effectively, the project is expected to also improve the accuracy of shorter-term weather forecasts.

"Improving forecasts for renewable energy from the Sun produces a major return on investment for society," said Thomas Bogdan, president of University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, which manages NCAR on behalf of the National Science Foundation.

"By helping utility produce more energy from the Sun, we can make this market more cost-competitive."

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