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NYPA Partners with UAlbany’s Weather-Climate Enterprise on Solar Forecasting Study

An array of 90 LG 350-watt solar panels are installed on the Campus Center West addition roof. (Photo by Patrick Dodson).

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 27, 2019) – The New York Power Authority (NYPA) and its research partners are collaborating with the University at Albany’s Weather-Climate Enterprise on a $1.85 million solar forecasting study.

The study is using high-definition cameras, together with advanced weather modeling and other sources of data, to develop prediction models that can anticipate output from large solar generating facilities and smaller, rooftop distributed resources. Power generation operators can then use the information to provide visibility of changes in solar generation and respond accordingly.

A network of solar forecasting equipment is already in place on Long Island and will be installed this summer at several Capital Region locations, including UAlbany’s Uptown Campus. Once completed, project leaders will determine the benefit of deploying this innovative forecasting technology across the state.

The innovative solar study supports Gov. Cuomo’s Green New Deal, a plan to transition New York to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040 and, economywide, net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“Fully integrating solar power into power system operations will be key in New York State’s transition to renewable energy, but it can be challenging to predict how much energy will be generated on any given day,” said Alan Ettlinger, NYPA’s director of research, technology development and innovation. “NYPA is working with research partners to develop the best technologies to improve forecasting of solar energy output so we can learn how to better maintain grid reliability and ultimately reduce operating costs.”

Photo of NYS Mesonet weather station tower.
The NYS Mesonet, a network of 126 weather stations across the state, is administered by UAlbany, with at least one site in every county.

A Hub for Solar Innovation

Along with the installation of equipment on campus, data from UAlbany’s New York State Mesonet, a statewide network of 126 weather stations, also will be used to provide solar power forecasts. In addition, scientists at the University’s Atmospheric Sciences Research Center (ASRC) are providing their expertise and contributing to the study’s data modeling efforts.

With close to 120 faculty, researchers and staff, UAlbany’s Weather-Climate Enterprise hosts the largest concentration of atmospheric, climate and environmental scientists in New York, and one of the largest in the nation.

“Creating technologies that can improve forecasting for solar energy generation will bring us a step closer to reaching Gov. Cuomo’s ambitious goals of economywide carbon neutrality,” said Christopher Thorncroft, director of the NYS Mesonet and interim director of ASRC. “The NYS Mesonet and ASRC are proud to partner on this project and provide data that will assist utility companies across the state in their decision making.”

“The NYPA project will allow us to optimize the observational requirements – including the type of sensors, number of sensors and sampling rates – needed to make solar power a significant and reliable energy source for New York,” added Jerry Brotzge, NYS Mesonet program manager. “Building upon our in-state expertise and existing statewide infrastructure such as the NYS Mesonet, this work advances our ability to reduce power generation costs and improve efficiency.”

The study builds on prior research by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) team, including Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL). In this next phase, BNL will develop and run a forecasting model and modify algorithms to receive and integrate data into a regional very-short-range forecast, for both the Albany and the Long Island networks. Central Hudson, a utility partner, will then demonstrate the impact of the forecasts.

Study results will be published in 2022. It is funded by NYPA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, and co-managed by the Electric Power Research Institute.

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