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Solar Resource Assessment with Sky Imagery and a Virtual Testbed for Sky Imager Solar Forecasting

  • Author(s): Kurtz, Benjamin Bernard
  • Advisor(s): Kleissl, Jan
  • et al.

In recent years, ground-based sky imagers have emerged as a promising tool for forecasting solar energy on short time scales (0 to 30 minutes ahead). Following the development of sky imager hardware and algorithms at UC San Diego, we present three new or improved algorithms for sky imager forecasting and forecast evaluation.

First, we present an algorithm for measuring irradiance with a sky imager. Sky imager forecasts are often used in conjunction with other instruments for measuring irradiance, so this has the potential to decrease instrumentation costs and logistical complexity. In particular, the forecast algorithm itself often relies on knowledge of the current irradiance which can now be provided directly from the sky images. Irradiance measurements are accurate to within about 10%.

Second, we demonstrate a virtual sky imager testbed that can be used for validating and enhancing the forecast algorithm. The testbed uses high-quality (but slow) simulations to produce virtual clouds and sky images. Because virtual cloud locations are known, much more advanced validation procedures are possible with the virtual testbed than with measured data. In this way, we are able to determine that camera geometry and non-uniform evolution of the cloud field are the two largest sources of forecast error.

Finally, with the assistance of the virtual sky imager testbed, we develop improvements to the cloud advection model used for forecasting. The new advection schemes are 10–20% better at short time horizons.

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