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Predicting Available Sunlight for Solar Plants

Linda Hardesty

Energy ManageSolar variability from cloud cover causes fluctuations in solar energy output, which can strain the electric grid. To alleviate the problem, scientists from Sandia National Laboratories and the University of California, San Diego, have developed the Wavelet Variability Model: a simulation tool to more accurately predict solar variability throughout the day.

The Wavelet model uses data from pyranometers (pictured) – devices that measure available sunlight – and scales it up to accurately represent the entire power plant. For its simulations, the Wavelet model incorporates several different data points, including the arrangement and number of solar panels in the plant and the daily local cloud speed.

In testing – both at a 2 MW photovoltaic plant in Japan and the 48 MW Copper Mountain solar facility in Nevada – the model’s simulations have proven to match up well with actual conditions.

Now that the testing and validation phases are complete, the researchers are preparing to make the Wavelet model publicly available.

Photo credit: Dino Vournas



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