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Title: Short-term solar irradiance forecasting using convolutional neural networks and cloud imagery

Access to accurate, generalizable and scalable solar irradiance prediction is critical for smooth solar-grid integration, especially in the light of the accelerated global adoption of solar energy production. Both physical and statistical prediction models of solar irradiance have been proposed in the literature. Physical models require meteorological forecasts—generated by computationally expensive models—to predict solar irradiance, with limited accuracy in sub-daily predictions. Statistical models leveragein-situmeasurements which require expensive equipment and do not account for meso-scale atmospheric dynamics. We address these fundamental gaps by developing a convolutional global horizontal irradiance prediction model, using convolutional neural networks and publicly accessible satellite cloud images. Our proposed model predicts solar irradiance in 12 different locations in the US for various prediction time horizons. Our model yields up to 24% improvement in an hour-ahead predictions and 26% in a day-ahead predictions compared to a persistence forecast. Moreover, using saliency maps and target-location-focused cropping, we demonstrate the benefits of incorporating meso-scale atmospheric dynamics for prediction performance. Our results are critical for energy systems planners, utility managers and electricity market participants to ensure efficient harvesting of the solar energy and reliable operation of the grid.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Environmental Research Letters
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Article No. 044045
IOP Publishing
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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