Australian-made real-time solar and wind energy forecasting technology is set to be live-tested on the South Australian grid, after receiving nearly $1 million in financial backing from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
The technology, developed by New South Wales-based company Solcast, aims to provide high-accuracy weather forecasts to help better manage the “variability” of solar and wind energy generation and provide more accurate information for grid operation.
ARENA said on Wednesday that it had assigned $994,685 in grant funding to Solcast to conduct a Gridded Renewables Nowcasting Demonstration project over the course of 12 months on Australia’s highest renewables network.
“South Australia now leads the world with its dependency on renewable energy generation, particularly rooftop solar,” said Solcast co-founder and CTO, Dr Nick Engerer. “Through this project, we’ll ensure it does the same with weather forecasting technology.”
The need for greater forecasting ability has been highlighted by two recent reports by the Australian Energy Market Operator – one the specifically looks at South Australia, which is heading towards net 100 per cent renewables by 2030, and the other the review of the last summer’s battles with record temperatures and bushfires.
The proof of concept demonstration will track the real-time evolution of weather systems over the state, forecasting the positions and characteristics of cloud cover, and improving forecasts of wind-speeds at the wind turbine nacelle-height.
This will be done using 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.
The forecasts will then be shared via project partners, Weatherzone and Tesla, to be assessed and used by AEMO, the local distribution network operator (SA Power Networks), and generator asset operators.
The trial aims to deliver high-resolution forecasts in five-minute intervals, for 1-2km of grids across South Australia. It will also focus on six-hour ahead forecasting, ARENA said, to provide more accurate information for grid operation and enhanced management of generation, energy storage, and demand response.
The overarching goal is to give the renewable energy industry enhanced situational awareness and more precise forecasts to support the management of the grid. To this end, AEMO will undertake a key role in testing and verifying the project outputs.
Formed in 2016, Solcast is an Australian-based company co-founded by meteorologists James Luffman and Dr Engerer, that started out providing data and modelling tools for solar power systems.
The company’s solar forecasting tool has proven to be able to predict the daily output of distributed solar generation systems with up to a 90 per cent probability and was last year integrated into the University of New South Wales-developed APVI Live Solar Map.
Having established an impressive team of data scientists and software developers, Solcast now has bases in Canberra and in Glasgow, Scotland, and has built up a customer base of more than 6000 users across the world.
The company has also had previous dealings with ARENA, through the federal government agency’s $9 million short-term forecasting round to deploy eight stand-alone self-forecasting trials at solar farms in the NEM.
For this trial, however, the scope is much bigger, and promises to help both solar and wind farms, as well as networks and the grid overall.
“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,” said ARENA CEO Darren Miller in a statement on Wednesday.
“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,” he said.
AEMO’s acting chief operations officer, Matthew Clemow, said the market operator looked forward to supporting the project and working with Solcast on this highly innovative initiative trial.
“Situational awareness and operational forecasting are critical functions for AEMO as the generation fleet becomes increasingly weather dependent,” 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.”
Australia’s minister for energy and emissions reduction, Angus Taylor, has also welcomed the trial, which is in keeping with his oft-repeated desire for a “secure and reliable” electricity supply and “keeping the lights on.”
“This project aims to better equip the energy sector with the information it needs to tackle one of the significant challenges renewable energy generation presents to the National Electricity Market,” Taylor said.
“The information will provide a greater real-time awareness of the electricity supply, helping them to maximise the value of existing renewable energy, stabilise the grid, avoid sudden disruptions and keep the lights on.”