Clean Power Research launches tool for analyzing solar irradiation

The growth in the number and size of photovoltaic installations in countries and regions with solar incentive programs has brought with it the challenge of understanding and managing the impact that numerous de-centralized and variable sources of energy generation can have on the grid.

Whether a rooftop installation or utility-scale solar park, any grid-tied photovoltaic systems’ power output falls when there is cloud, and rises again when it is sunny. With just a few panels, this variability is not an issue, but when aggregated over fleets – photovoltaic installations in different locations of varying sizes within a service territory of a utility – there is increasing demand for accurate output data to manage variability.

U.S.-based Clean Power Research has developed a system that lets utilities and ISOs analyze and forecast the impact of a defined fleet of photovoltaic systems, located on a distribution feeder or spread over a load-balancing area.

The FleetView system, based on Clean Power Research’s SolarAnywhere technology, uses satellite images of irradiance levels – a technique that can complement conventional methods of measuring solar irradiation that rely on ground sensor-based systems, where monitoring equipment is based on expensive instrumentation and measuring tools, which require maintenance.

Collecting data over large areas can be costly and challenging, and forecasting is not possible. But, this traditional method can be integrated with FleetView, requiring less sensors over a given area being measured. "A challenge has been overcoming fundamental skepticism from utilities wanting to know ‘can I trust this?’" explains Jeff Ressler, President Software Services at Clean Power Research.

To develop its technology, the company has received California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) research, development, demonstration and deployment grants. These round three grants have been specifically concerned with accelerating the integration and interconnection of high penetration photovoltaics into the grid.

California is one of a few states where solar is likely to reach grid parity earliest, but requires higher grid penetration of photovoltaics to help achieve this and Clean Power Research is providing an additional tool in the kit to enable broader adoption of the technology.

In related news, read Tracking shadows, which discusses a project, funded by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Program and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and which has brought together researchers, a plant owner/operator, a grid operator and state and national government agencies, to track and predict the shadows cast by cloudy skies.