DOE provides cloud surveillance at Copper Mountain


The two TSIs, which are produced by Yankee Environmental Systems, provide digital imaging of the sky integrated with automatic software to monitor cloud conditions at the site. By providing such information it is hoped that a model can be created where-by the electrical output of the Copper Mountain Plant can be predicted. Photovoltaics is often criticized as providing intermittent power that is difficult for electrical grids to handle.

The Copper Mountain’s vast scale also makes it an ideal candidate for such a project. Set to cover 1,100 acres, the plant is scheduled to be completed in 2015. The first 48 megawatt (MW) stage was finalized late last year. When finished, the plant is expected to be worth 150 MW. Pacific Gas and Electric Company is working with Sempra Generation and First Solar on the plant. Peaks and troughs of production from such a vast plant could cause major variation in electrical load on the grid.

The plan to install the TSIs at the Copper Mountain Plant is part of a collaborative research project involving First Solar, the University of California at San Diego, Sempra and the California Energy Commission. The DOE’s SunShot Initiative aims to reduce the cost of solar energy systems by 75 percent.