Proa, an Australian solar forecasting and energy system modelling company, has delivered the first approved solar farm self-forecast for National Electricity Market (NEM) dispatch.

We have previously reported about the significant transformation occurring throughout the Australian energy market (our recent 2019 Electricity Statement of Opportunities projected the likely changes that will occur over the next decade) and now we’re seeing market participants taking proactive steps to get ahead of these changes. A big part of this ‘future-proofing’ involves greater self-sufficiency with regard to forecasting of renewable energy assets such as solar and wind generation.

Following a thorough eight week assessment period, AEMO provided approval to Proa, and the 95 Megawatt (MW) Tailem Bend solar farm in South Australia, for self-forecast generation. Proa is the first company to achieve this distinction.

This milestone for the development of the NEM makes the Tailem Bend solar farm the first semi-dispatched renewable energy project in the NEM to switch from AEMO’s forecasting tool to a self-forecasting model.

“Proa is proud to be the first to pass AEMO’s rigorous assessment for forecast accuracy and reliability. This achievement demonstrates Proa’s quality and innovation,”, said Dr. Victor Depoorter, Proa’s Technical Director.

Dr. Depoorter highlighted that the Proa solar forecasts are the combination of several forecast techniques. Interestingly, the company has developed new methods to track cloud movement from both satellite images, which gives them a view of clouds across the whole of Australia, and from sky-cam images (cameras installed at each solar farm), which provides a detailed view of local cloud conditions.

The Proa Forecasting System then combines these details with live measurements from the solar farm and leading numerical weather prediction models from agencies across the world, including from the Bureau of Meteorology. Proa is now working to integrate other solar farms into AEMO’s dispatch.

Mike Davidson, AEMO’s Manager of Operational Forecasting said, “This is a great achievement and is the result of 18 months of sustained effort by the Australian renewable energy sector and a growing number of energy forecasting providers in Australia.  We have been delighted by the industry response to this initiative. We currently have a total of 56 forecasting models being assessed for accuracy.  Proa’s was the first cab off the rank, but there will be many more to follow.”

Mr Davidson highlighted that there are three key drivers for utilising self-forecasts for wind and solar farms. 

  • Owners and operators are best placed to predict how their facilities operate
  • Fast paced evolution in the commercial sophistication of the renewable sector
  • Rapid growth in renewable penetration in the NEM

In parallel with the enhancements in technology there has also been rapid evolution in the commercial sophistication of the renewable sector.  This is underlined by the recent deployment of trading systems utilising Artificial Intelligence (AI) to optimise commercial outcomes.

Emerging technology will be invaluable in the evolution of the next generation of renewable power plants – energy parks.  These are hybrid facilities that will utilise batteries, wind, solar and even pumped hydro and perhaps hydrogen generation.

It’s critical that as an industry we create the capacity and capability to ensure that the new, innovative technologies we see emerging right now can meet the needs of our customers. This is one small but important step in that direction.

 

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*As the system and market operator, we are fuel and technology neutral. The products, services and providers in this content are for illustrative purposes only and are not endorsed by AEMO.