Improving solar forecasting to help balance the grid
PassivSystems is working with Open Climate Fix, a not-for-profit research and development lab that focuses on tackling climate change, to improve forecasting for the generation of electricity from solar PV.
PassivSystems is sharing data with Open Climate Fix to help address a major challenge in the UK energy sector around balancing the supply and demand of electricity in response to the increasing availability of renewable energy generation.
Better forecasting for solar energy generation helps National Grid Electricity System Operator (NG ESO) to balance the supply and demand of electricity in Britain in a more efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly way.
More accurate forecasting will also help energy suppliers and companies like PassivSystems to provide customers with better and more affordable products and services.
Predicting solar output
Efficient running of the grid was estimated to cost £1bn a year in 2016. With an increasing shift to renewable energy generation, this is expected to rise to £2bn in the next five years. The bulk of this is paid to power generators to increase or decrease their output at short notice.
This growing cost comes, in part, because the generation of energy from some renewable sources is intermittent or dependent on specific conditions. For example, in the UK, where there is variable cloud coverage, it can be hard to predict how much energy will be generated through solar panels over a sustained period of time. This causes gaps or spikes in the supply of electricity that need to be balanced out by purchasing from alternative power generators.
The ability to better forecast the supply of energy from renewable sources would help to reduce the costs of this balancing exercise. Access to precise and relevant data is hugely important in helping to improve the accuracy of forecasting renewable energy generation.
The energy sector needs to develop new approaches to forecasting energy demand to help manage grid flexibility.
Working in partnership
PassivSystems aims to help customers get better value for money and to help make a significant reduction to global emissions.
PassivSystems uses automated meter reading (AMR) to monitor the performance of a portfolio of over 40,000 solar PV assets across the UK. It already shares data with a team at Sheffield University, which uses it to forecast solar electricity generation at half-hourly intervals. The insights from forecasts are publicly available.
By sharing data with Open Climate Fix, PassivSystems is enabling solar ‘nowcasting’, which delivers more accurate short-term predictions for solar electricity generation.
Open Climate Fix aims to improve the accuracy of nowcasting by training the algorithms to consider trends in the generation of solar electricity alongside the effect of environmental conditions like cloud coverage and pollution. The more data that Open Climate Fix has available from solar PV and the environment, the more accurate its nowcasting insights will be.
The PassivSystems and Open Climate Fix data ecosystem
The team at Sheffield University access data from PassivSystems and other partners via an API.
Organisations authorised to use the API, including Open Climate Fix, can view and use data showing how much energy is currently being produced across the portfolio in one-minute or 30-minute time intervals.
By sharing PV cell data with Open Climate Fix, PassivSystems aims to receive insights on how to be more energy efficient, making renewable energy financially sustainable. Explore the map here.
The Open Data Institute
This case study is part of a project by the Open Data Institute exploring the value of sharing data in the private sector. Businesses in any sector face challenges which cannot be solved by a single organisation working alone. Collaboration, often through increasing access to data, is key to solving these challenges to help grow markets, improve decision making and adapt to changing environments.