Napa-based Clean Power gets $850,000 grant for solar-grid studies

NAPA -- Clean Power Research, which develops analytic tools for the renewable-energy industry, today said that the California Public Utilities Commission will give it an $852,260 to develop new simulations that will help predict how much cloud cover affects the performance of large solar-power arrays.

The grant, one of seven in a third round of awards totaling $7.65 million from the California Solar Initiative's  Research, Development, Deployment and Demonstration Program, taps $875,000 in matching funds. It's a followup round of funding for Clean Power from the commission, according to the company.

With the grant, Clean Power Research plants to validate its existing photovoltalic panel fleet simulations, developed with earlier funding from the program. The tools  are designed to accurately estimate power output and variability without the cost and complexity of direct monitoring, according to the company.

Given the intermittent nature of photovoltaic system output in changing daylight conditions, this data is vital for utilities and ISOs who are integrating PV into their planning, scheduling and operating strategies to maintain grid reliability, according to Tom Hoff, president of research and consulting at Clean Power Research.

"Accurate solar forecasting is critical for integrating ever-larger PV fleets into the grid, yet the expense and difficulty of obtaining this information can be very high," he said in a statement. "This grant builds on our previous CSI RD&D research, allowing us to validate our PV simulation models and make them widely available through easy-to-use software tools."

Participants in the Clean Power Research project include California Independent System Operator Corp., or California ISO; Pacific Gas and Electric Co.; Sacramento Municipal Utility District; State University of New York at Albany; Electric Power Research Institute, Inc.; Solar Electric Power Association; and University of California, San Diego.

The goal is a novel expansion of Clean Power's SolarAnywhere database with accuracy to one minute and one kilometer in California, a requirement for calculating variability at the short time intervals typical for dispatching energy reserves, according to the company. The software simulations will be made available for distribution planning, smart-grid operation, utility load scheduling and balance area planning and operation.

In addition to the Clean Power Research project, SolarAnywhere data will be used in screening distribution feeders, being developed by Electric Power Research Institute, Inc., as alternatives to the 15 percent rule, and high-fidelity solar forecasting demonstration for grid integration by UC San Diego.

"Our analysis has shown that SolarAnywhere is one of the most accurate and highly spatially resolved solar resource datasets available," said Jan Kleissl, UC San Diego assistant professor of environmental engineering. "Clouds cannot hide from a satellite."

Launched in 2008, SolarAnywhere is an extensive source of downloadable historical, real-time and forecast satellite-derived solar irradiance data for the continental U.S. and Hawaii.

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