At MDA Information Systems, we are developing a forecast system based on first principles, with the well-validated REST2 clear sky model (Gueymard, 2008) at its backbone. In tuning the model and addressing aerosol scattering and surface albedo, etc., we relied upon the wealth of public data sources including AERONET (aerosol optical depth at different wavelengths), Suominet (GPS integrated water vapor), NREL MIDC solar monitoring stations, SURFRAD (includes upwelling shortwave), and MODIS (albedo in different wavelength bands), among others. The forecast itself utilizes a blend of NWP model output, which must be brought down to finer time resolution based on the diurnal cycle rather than simple interpolation. Many models currently do not output the direct beam irradiance, and one that does appears to have a bias relative to its global horizontal irradiance, with equally good performance attained by utilizing REST2 and the model global radiation to estimate the direct component. We will present a detailed assessment of various NWP solar energy products, evaluating forecast skill at a range of photovoltaic installations.
Most forecasts and forecast users have so far been interested in generation by utility-scale installations, but the cumulative hidden load reductions due to smaller distributed installations such as residential rooftop panels also will soon become important. We will be developing a system for forecasting the generation from these distributed sources as well, and if we have new findings on this endeavor at the time of the conference, we will include them in our presentation.