ARENA Short-term Forecasting System

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Industrial Monitoring & Control Pty Ltd (IMC), a local Newcastle company based in Carrington, has been awarded $1,247,841 of funding from Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to implement a short-term solar forecasting system, which will provide a more stable power system and has the potential to reduce electricity prices for all users. This Project received funding from ARENA as part of ARENA's Advancing Renewables Program. 


IMC is leading a consortium including The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), University of South Australia and The University of New South Wales to combine and extend the forecasting technologies and cloud prediction models developed by the research institutions. 


The five operational solar farms that are included in the trial are geographically diverse, spread from far north Queensland to Victoria. These sites represent meteorologically diverse locations that experience widely varied weather conditions and cloud types.


ARENA CEO Darren Miller said these trials will provide test cases for wind and solar to improve the accuracy of five-minute-ahead forecasting.


“Together with AEMO, we’re supporting these projects which have the potential for solar and wind farms to reduce their impact on grid frequency deviations and support system security by better matching demand with anticipated supply from variable renewable generators.


“Much like traditional energy generators, we’re aiming to show that renewable energy is now capable of providing accurate measurement of energy output, even to as little as five minutes ahead.


“There is definitely a lot of positivity around the potential for solar and wind farms to predict their own energy output, potentially leading to better deals for these operators and more accurate data for AEMO,” Mr Miller said.


The forecasting technology will integrate five state-of-the-art short-term solar forecasting models into a single optimised ensemble model. The purpose of the ensemble model is to capitalise on the strengths of each of the established forecasting technologies, to produce an industry best practice forecast. Technologies range from skyward facing cameras utilising machine vision algorithms to track and predict cloud motion, satellite imaging based cloud motion vector modelling, statistical auto-regression models, numerical weather predictions and detailed power conversion models. 


Deployed models in the ensemble will include: 

  • Satellite: cloud motion vector based model from UNSW, 

  • Statistical: an advanced statistical autoregression model from UniSA,

  • Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP): a combined Numerical Weather Prediction model from CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere,

  • Skycam: A stereographic sky-camera forecasting system from CSIRO Energy 

  • Physical PCM: a detailed physics-based power conversion model (PCM) from CSIRO Energy 


IMC has been working closely with the CSIRO Energy Centre, located in Mayfield West, for several years, helping to develop and commercialise the Cloud180CAM camera based solar forecasting system. CSIRO are world leaders in this space and have a huge depth of research knowledge within the Newcastle Energy Centre. The Cloud180CAM technology has been well tested for remote area power station applications, where it has helped to significantly reduce diesel usage. This ARENA funded project will prove the technology in the solar farm environment for the first time. This collaboration between Newcastle based organisations is helping to develop world-class technology solutions to global problems.