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NYISO Partners with UAlbany’s NYS Mesonet to Aid Solar Power Forecasting

The NYS Mesonet includes 126 standard weather stations located in every county of the state.

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 27, 2019) -- The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) has partnered with the New York State Mesonet at UAlbany to acquire new solar power information that will improve the New York electric grid’s ability to integrate photovoltaic power.

The NYISO is a private, non-profit organization that manages New York’s electric grid and its competitive wholesale electric marketplace. Currently, the NYISO’s solar power forecasts are based on satellite images of cloud cover. New ground-level solar data provided by NYS Mesonet, the most advanced early warning weather-detection system in the country, will lead to increased accuracy of hourly solar forecasts across the state and better predictions about the productivity of the panels.

First launched in 2014 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the NYS Mesonet includes 126 standard weather stations located in every county of the state. Each station is equipped with automated sensors that measure irradiance (watts per square meter of sunlight) and various other weather data such as temperature, humidity, snow depth, soil moisture and wind speed. The network’s data is collected every five minutes and transmitted to UAlbany headquarters for quality control.

NYS Mesonet data will be sent to the NYISO once per hour, helping the organization factor in the amount of power coming from photovoltaic cells. As a weather-dependent renewable resource, energy from solar power is harder to predict than more traditional sources of grid power, such as gas, hydro or nuclear generators.

“As photovoltaic installations continue to grow around the state, we need to be able to forecast the impact of this intermittent resource on the electric grid,” said Emilie Nelson, vice president of market operations at the NYISO. “This tool gives our control room operators more visibility into how real-time changes in solar production affect demand, and enhances our ability to integrate renewable resources while maintaining grid reliability.”

Rick Karlin of the Times Union tours NYS Mesonet headquarters during an open house on campus.
Rick Karlin of the Times Union tours NYS Mesonet headquarters during an open house on campus. (Photo by Brian Busher)

“Through the nation’s most advanced Mesonet network, in combination with UAlbany’s world-class expertise in weather and climate science, weather-sensitive businesses in New York are improving forecasting and decision-making,” said Chris Thorncroft, director of NYS Mesonet and interim director of the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center (ASRC) at UAlbany. “This new partnership with NYISO is a shining example of the innovative and efficient business solutions our weather enterprise can offer to partners across public and private industries.”

The NYISO estimates that the total capability of installed behind-the-meter solar power in New York is currently about 1,450 megawatts. There is also one grid-scale solar farm, a 32-megawatt project on Long Island. Other grid-scale solar projects are in the works around the state.

This new data stream will help better prepare NYISO grid operators for changes in load that are offset by solar power equipment located at homes and businesses. Operation of the electric grid requires that the amount of power generated by suppliers is always equal to power demand; a delicate balancing act that requires the use of multiple computer models and instruments that measure power transmission in real time.

The weather stations within the NYS Mesonet network are located on average less than 20 miles from each other, many on SUNY campuses throughout the state. The network is designed to improve the state’s resiliency to extreme weather by providing extensive, real-time, 3-D data to emergency personnel and first responders. Hear more from NYS Mesonet’s program manager Jerald Brotzge on the UAlbany News Podcast or read more on the network.

View photos and video of the NYS Mesonet’s weather stations and headquarters.

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