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What is Solar Forecasting?

Solar Forecasting and Cloud Cover

Solar forecasting is a new science being developed to forecast where the sun will be located at different points throughout the day. Like a sophisticated sundial, sun forecasting equipment is being developed similar to wind forecasting equipment that can tell when and where the wind will be the strongest to produce wind power.

The University of California at San Diego is developing sun forecasting equipment to make photovoltaic systems more efficient. When installers and solar power users can predict when and where the sun will be at its strongest, they will also be able to tell where to install PV solar systems. With cloud cover predictions, grid operators can also boost the efficiency of solar power systems by increasing the spinning reserves on a system when cloud cover is approaching and decreasing as cloud cover diminishes.

They key to effective solar forecasting is cloud behavior prediction. Even in locations such as Arizona, where cloud cover is rare, it can still affect the efficiency of photovoltaic systems. Because weather systems can be unpredictable, images via satellite are used in tandem with complex weather forecasting technologies to predict when and where the most cloud cover will occur. In some cases, cloud cover can be predicted within five minutes.

Solar forecasting can drastically affect the efficiency of PV systems, and improve the energy output of most solar systems making solar power even more of a viable option for residents and businesses.