This looks like a potentially very significant development in achieving a more efficient electricity system. Having advanced warning of how PV plants are going to perform will enable National Grid to plan further in advance and make more efficient use of reserve capacity which will lead to lower costs on the electricity system. Energy storage assets could be primed and ready to smooth out the effect of short periods of lower irradiance. The Sheffield Solar team also plan to roll this out at regional levels and even for individual PV systems. This will be very useful at all scales to make sure electricity is being used as efficiently as possible.
In a project entitled ‘Sheffield Solar’, researchers at the university are working closely with National Grid, the UK’s national grid operator, to develop a service that can forecast PV generation up to 72 hours in advance, to the benefit of grid operators, as well as self-consumers and energy traders. Both in the UK, which enjoyed its first ‘coal free days’ in May and June of this year, and in other regions, renewable energy is beginning to account for a significant proportion of overall generation. With this comes the need for solutions to the inherent intermittency of renewable energy generation, to ensure that the grid can remain balanced.