University launches free solar forecasting tool

Service aims to lower balancing costs by reducing need for standby generation

The University of Sheffield has launched a free forecasting tool to give network operators, generators and traders greater visibility over the impact of solar on the power grid.

Sheffield Solar – a research group within the university’s Department of Physics – developed the three-day forecasting service in collaboration with National Grid.

The aim is to improve the efficiency of the power system and bring down balancing costs by reducing the need for standby generation. Sheffield Solar said a recent flurry of renewable records demonstrates the need for such a service.

The research group initially worked with National Grid to create a tool to estimate real time generation from photovoltaic solar panels around Britain. It took two years to develop and is now being used in National Grid’s control room.

But the new service, which is currently being trialled through the Sheffield Solar website, goes a step further. It provides a 72-hour projection of solar output based on weather forecasts and live generation data.

Sheffield Solar plans to enhance this service over time by launching a half-hourly forecast, followed by regional forecasts and finally bespoke forecasts for individual solar systems.