Energy Department Announces $9 Million to Improve Solar Forecasting

April 23, 2012

As part of the SunShot Initiative, the Energy Department today announced $9 million 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 electricity grid, and ensure the economic and reliable delivery of renewable energy to American families and businesses. This funding underscores the Obama Administration's commitment to boosting America's energy security, expanding the U.S. solar market, and increasing domestic energy production from all available sources, including solar.

Since a solar power plant's energy output directly depends on the amount of sunlight that hits the solar array, 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. In turn, 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. Accurate forecasting can also help utilities and grid operators boost the reliability of their systems, and, ultimately, reduce the cost of integrating solar power plants into the grid.

The Energy Department will competitively select one or two projects for this funding, potentially partnering with national laboratories, universities and industry, to improve the accuracy of solar forecasting in the sub-hourly, short-term (1–6 hours), and day-ahead timeframes. The 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.

This initiative will provide up to $9 million this year for projects up to three years in duration, with over 20% of the total funding to be provided by private and other sources. For more information, see the full solicitation.

The SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. Inspired by President Kennedy's "Moon Shot" program that put the first man on the moon, the SunShot Initiative has created new momentum for the solar industry by highlighting the need for American competitiveness in the clean energy race.

DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accelerates development and facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality.