U.S. Department of Energy

    Energy Department Offers $9 Million to Improve Solar Forecasting

    April 25, 2012

    The Energy Department on April 23 announced that $9 million is available this year to help utilities and grid operators better forecast when, where, and how much solar power will be produced at U.S. solar energy plants. Enhanced solar forecasting will allow power system operators to integrate more solar energy into the grid and help ensure the economic and reliable delivery of renewable energy. The selected projects, part of DOE's SunShot Initiative, will last up to three years and will require more than 20% of the total funding from private and other sources.

    Changes in weather conditions can cause variations in solar power production. Improved forecasting technologies will help utilities and power system operators better predict when clouds and other weather-related factors will reduce the intensity of incoming sunlight at solar facilities. This information will allow utilities and operators to more accurately anticipate changes in solar power production and take actions to ensure the stability of the national power grid. This can reduce the cost of integrating solar power plants into the grid.

    DOE will competitively select one or two projects for this funding, potentially partnering with national laboratories, universities, and industry. Awardees will strive to improve the accuracy of solar forecasting in the sub-hourly, short-term (1–6 hours), and day-ahead timeframes. The Energy Department plans to fund projects that could improve advanced weather modeling, find breakthrough methods for accurately predicting solar energy output, work to incorporate solar energy forecasts into power system operations, and demonstrate the economic benefits and improved system reliability from more accurate forecasts. See the DOE Progress Alert, the full announcement on the Funding Opportunity Exchange, and the SunShot Initiative website.