SMHI develops forecasts for the solar energy sector

Short-term forecasts for direct solar radiation will be developed by researchers from the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) within the framework of a European research project on solar energy. A forecast of the amount of solar radiation and coming cloudiness would be of great benefit to the solar energy sector.

“A large amount of cloud cover is highly significant in terms of the amount of direct solar radiation, which in turn affects the amount of energy that large thermal solar power plants can generate,” explains Tomas Landelius, who carries out research on atmospheric remote sensing at SMHI.

More data for forecasts

SMHI will be leading the part of the research project that aims to develop forecasts for direct solar radiation. An improved cloud forecast is a key component of this work. Higher resolution forecast models and closer readings of observations from satellites can be used to improve cloud forecasts for the next four hours. When combined with a radiation model, this can give a forecast for the amount of direct solar radiation.

“During the course of the project, we will be in close contact with players within the solar energy sector, in order to identify their needs and get feedback on our results,” continues Tomas.

Interest from several weather-dependent sectors

Unlike the solar cells used in Sweden, thermal solar power plants are much more dependent on the amount of direct solar radiation. The radiation forecasts will be used to control production at large solar power plants in Southern Europe and North Africa.

“This development may also bring benefits for Swedish conditions. For example, it could bring improvements for forecasts of electricity from solar cell panels, precipitation forecasts for agriculture and road maintenance, and visibility forecasts for aviation.”

European project

The DNICast project began at the end of 2013, and will present its final report after four years. Together with a number of other European players, SMHI is part of a consortium led by the Observatoire Méditerranéen de l’Energie, an association of 32 leading energy companies from 14 different countries around the Mediterranean. The project is part of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, FP7.

About solar radiation

Solar radiation can be divided into direct radiation and global radiation.
Direct radiation is solar radiation that comes direct from the sun.
Global radiation includes both direct radiation and the diffuse radiation that is reflected from the rest of the sky.