Why Advanced Forecasting is Needed for a Solar Powered Future

Solar Photovoltaics (PV) generation increased by a record 270 TWh, up 26%, in 2022, reaching almost 1300 TWh. PV also had the biggest increase in absolute generation of all renewable technologies, beating wind for the first time. This is likely to continue to grow due to the economic appeal of PV, big changes in the supply chain, and increasing policy support – especially in China, the United States, the European Union, and India – which are expected to further accelerate capacity growth in the coming years.

Share of cumulative power capacity by technology, 2010-2027

Source: IEA (2022), World Energy Outlook 2022.

This growth in the US can be attributed to various tax credits, like the solar ITC, the decrease of cost of equipment, change in consumer behavior, and general improvement of battery technology. 

However, as the country's renewable energy portfolio continues to expand, the energy market is expected to face many challenges. For one, the current infrastructure was not designed with the intention for electricity to move in two directions. When a lot of solar energy is being pumped back into the grid, low-voltage lines can cause damage to network and consumer equipment, and networks may have to be turned off solar inverters to get the voltage back to normal. The technical challenges our grid is facing is due, partially, to the fact that it was not designed for renewables. As we work to improve the infrastructure, the next challenge will be to figure out how to integrate the large amounts of solar data into current energy forecasting methodologies.

How does solar growth affect forecasting?

The proliferation of solar power is making net demand forecasting too complex for human analysis. Solar flips demand expectations upside down — but only sometimes. If the sun is shining on hot summer afternoons, homes and businesses with solar systems don’t require electricity from the grid to run their air conditioners. But sometimes it’s hot and cloudy. And during the winter it can be cold, but sunny.

In short, solar introduces a multitude of new variables into the forecasting equation. The Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) predicts 15% of U.S. homes will have solar by 2030, up from 6% at the end of 2022, and that’s not even taking into consideration the effects of utility-scale installations in the generation mix.

The conventional approach to demand forecasting is incapable of accounting for the complexity these four factors introduce to modern grids. Mitigating the financial risks associated with inaccurate forecasts is the primary advantage of adopting advanced demand forecasting.

How can companies modernize their forecasting?

Amperon is the competitive difference for top-tier customers among utilities, coops, munis, retail electricity providers, and traders. Our award-winning ML models provide demand and supply analytics for every hour of every day. Our 15-day forecasts run hourly to help with short-term position management and 5-year forecasts run weekly to help with operational planning. Our platform provides additional grid-scale solar and wind generation forecasts that:

  • Overlay the ISO forecast, as well as DA forecasts for both Amperon and the ISO
  • Amperon forecasts are 14 days out, compared to the ISO 7 days
Wind and solar generation forecasts for the next 14 days.

The weather is already difficult to predict. But with the mix of wind-generation on the grid expected to rise from 11% to 12% and solar from 4% to 5% this year – surpassing coal and nuclear for the first time in the U.S. – it is critical to have accurate forecasts for these hard-to-predict, intermittent sources. These are also the supply signals that impact prices in the market. For accurate solar and wind forecasts, it’s not just about if the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, they also need to account for cloud coverage, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, temperature, and precipitation. Even the smallest variations in these factors can make it harder to predict generation.

By better anticipating the amount of solar and wind that will be available on the grid at any given time, companies can more effectively integrate renewables into their energy management strategies:

  • Traders can optimize innovative trading strategies to increase margins
  • Utilities and grid managers can improve operational and resource planning
  • Large, energy consumers have better insights into when to utilize backup power or storage option
  • Retailers with a high concentration of customers with rooftop solar will gain better insights into their behind-the-meter data

To make sure the energy transition happens as smoothly as possible, we need the right tools in place. It starts with supply and demand forecasts – which ultimately reduce carbon intensity and keep prices low for consumers. To learn more, contact us.

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