Introducing a Community Powered Solar Energy Forecasting Project for Canberra

In Our Renewables-Powered Future - Rooftop Solar Energy Will Play a Dominant Role.

In January 2014, Australia had nearly 1.2 million solar energy installations, with nearly all of them on rooftops.  Their combined capacity now exceeds 3GW, and is forecast to grow to as much as 23GW  by 2030 - with most of the new installations showing up on Australian homes and businesses.  

Now, if those numbers don't mean much to you - let's just say that's an enormous amount of energy generation and has very significant consequences for the way the electricity market in Australia works.

As I want to keep this post short and straight to the point, I won't go into the specifics of how, why and when high penetrations of distributed PV systems will start causing problems - but we're getting very close.

This is precisely why ARENA has funded our distributed solar energy forecasting project

Starting now, we're deploying up to 300 data loggers to homes with solar PV systems in the ACT region.  Our aim is to cover all of Canberra with a 'sensor' network of rooftop PV systems reporting live data.  By joining this dataset with the deployment of 10-12 sky imagers - we're going to be able to predict how and when the total solar power output of a city changes in real-time.  Once we prove we can do it - we'll replicate the project across all major cities in Australia.

Not convinced?  Let me give you two concrete examples that show why this project is important:

Consider these two scenarios:

  1. Clearing fog results in a rapid increase in PV power production across the whole of Canberra in less than an hour.
  2. Cloud bands suddenly obscure an entire city's PV systems in under 30 minutes

Well lucky you, I have some videos showing that this actually happens:

Positive ramp event from clearing fog

Cloud bands cause negative and positive ramp events 

Currently, these 'ramp events' are manageable.  But what if we double or triple our total installed capacity?  At some point, very soon, it's going to start being a problem.

Here's the fun part:  with our new project, you get to be part of the solution!

We have a team of scientists already working on this problem, and we're ready for more data.  Our ANU-NICTA partnership needs YOU to sign-up for our project as a volunteer to have your home solar energy system report its energy generation.  It's FREE and it allows you to become part of our science project.  

If you're interested, all you have to do is fill in the information at this link:

Want to learn more?

For starters, I've done an informative interview which I've posted to YouTube - most of the important bits are in Part 2:

Interview Part 1 of 2

Interview Part 2 of 2

If you're interested in the more technical information behind our project, I suggest you check out my scientific presentations and stay tuned for future posts (RSS at top-right).   I've purposefully left out a lot of the technical information to keep this post simple.  

You can also read more at the NICTA project page 

I look forward to seeing volunteers fill-up our inbox!  Tell your family and friends all about this project - and help solar succeed in Australia!