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Blazing an award-winning solar forecasting trail
By Christine Patmon on February 26, 2016
Taking a leading-edge approach to solar forecasting earned some of our team members an Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) Technology Transfer Award.
What is a technology transfer award and what does it mean for our customers?
EPRI’s award recognizes leaders and innovators who transfer research into applied results. Translation: the big binder is not sitting on a shelf. We’re taking that complicated info and doing something with it to benefit our customers, our community, and the environment.
We used EPRI’s research to evaluate and select a solar forecasting service. Simply put, it’s a special weather system that tells us how much sun will hit millions of solar panels that will be making energy for us by year’s end.
As a reminder, we brokered a mega solar deal in 2012 to get 400 megawatts (MW) of clean, waterless solar energy. It called for our partner, OCI Solar Power, to create local jobs, economic development and educational investment. A third-party report explains it in greater detail. Plus, we added an additional 50 more megawatts at the end of the year.
Getting 450 MW is a lot of power – more than half of our largest power plant. But as you know, the sun doesn’t shine 100 percent of the time. Solar is considered intermittent – unlike a power plant because its generation is not steady.
That’s why we need a reliable forecast to plan for our community’s power needs. We’ll use it to decide which other generation sources we have to bring online to meet daily demand after accounting for forecasted solar power.
Utilities with small amounts of solar may not think of forecasting. But with us having a total of nearly 500 MW online by the end of 2016, including early solar agreements stretching back to 2010, it’s critical. We plan for our community’s needs and consider State grid reliability, especially during summer demand.
“We started planning in 2012 for research in solar forecasting,” said Valerie von Schramm, strategic research and innovation manager here at CPS Energy. “There was so little information out there around the capabilities of solar forecasting. It’s still so new.”
As the solar leader in Texas and the initiator of a solar manufacturing ecosystem, we’re used to blazing new trails.
In his comments about companies who received the Technology Transfer Awards, EPRI executive Mark McGranaghan said, “The collaboration demonstrated by these individuals and teams enables the power industry to continuously improve its safety, reliability, and affordability and be more environmentally responsible for the benefit of their stakeholders and society.”