Page 18 - North American Clean Energy November/December 2018 Issue
P. 18

 solar energy
New Tool
Forecasts Local
Power Generation
by Simon Engler
How much electricity did solar and wind installations generate in your area in the past 24 hours? How much power will they produce today and tomorrow?
The vast majority of Americans support expanding the production of solar and wind energy. But the average person has no easy way to understand how much power those energy sources actually generate in his or her community, on a day-to-day basis.
That has changed. In September 2018, Climate Central, a non-advocacy, non-profit research organization, released a free online tool that will let TV meteorologists across the United States share three-day estimates of local solar and wind power generation with their viewers, across a number of straightforward metrics. The tool is part of the Climate Matters initiative, which provides local, ready-to-use information about climate change— from broadcast-ready graphics to data analysis—to more than 600 TV meteorologists around the country.
Here’s how the new tool works. Each morning, Climate Central downloads hourly historical and forecast data on local wind speeds and solar irradiance across the country, provided by MESO, an atmospheric modeling and consulting group. The tool takes this data and combines it with data on installed solar and wind electricity generating capacity (sourced from the Energy Information Administration, the Open PV Project, the Solar Energy Industry Association, and the U.S. Wind Turbine Database) to calculate
the amount of wind and solar electricity generated in individual locations throughout the United States. Using yesterday’s wind and sun actuals,
along with projected weather data, the tool estimates yesterday’s electricity generation, and approximates the likely generation levels for today and tomorrow. The results are freely accessible online to both TV meteorologists and the general public.
Specifically, the tool produces hourly results for every cell in a 0.05° latitude by 0.05° longitude grid across the United States. It then creates daily, regional results by aggregating the hourly figures into 24-hour periods, and by combining the cells into blocks that coincide with the U.S. TV market areas delineated by Nielsen. Television market areas are relatively small, and wind-generated electricity (unlike solar power) often travels long distances from its source to users; the tool also offers estimates for the Environmental Protection Agency’s eGRID regions, within which electricity generated is usually also consumed. In the future, the tool may also provide information

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