(ADPnews) - Oct 1, 2010 - California-based Sandia National Laboratories has developed a new system to monitor how clouds affect large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants.
By observing cloud shape, size and movement, the system provides a way for utility companies to predict and prepare for fluctuations in power output due to changes in weather. The resulting models will provide utility companies with data to assess potential power plant locations, ramp rates and power output.
Sandia researchers' work is currently focused on the 1.2 MW La Ola Solar Farm on the Hawaiian island of Lanai, the state's largest solar power system. Understanding variability of such a large plant is critical to ensuring that power output is reliable and that output ramp rates remain manageable.
A small system can be completely covered by a cloud, which drastically reduces its power output, but what is less well understood is what happens when only part of a large system is covered by a moving cloud shadow while the rest stays in sunlight.
"Our goal is to get to the point where we can predict what's going to happen at larger scale plants as they go toward hundreds of megawatts. To do that, you need the data, and the opportunity was available at La Ola," said Sandia researcher Scott Kuszmaul.
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