Michael Bennet, Cory Gardner tout Colorado energy lab’s grant to build solar forecasting system

Author: Ernest Luning - December 23, 2017 - Updated: December 22, 2017

solar panelsA researcher examines solar panels. (Courtesy National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

The scientists at Golden’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory have received a nearly $2 million federal grant to build a better system to forecast when the sun will be shining, Colorado’s U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner announced Friday. The project is part of a Department of Energy program to improve integration of notoriously variable solar-generated electricity into the power grid.

“NREL’s pioneering research on solar energy puts Colorado at the forefront of the 21st century clean energy economy,” Bennet said in a statement. “We support the grant’s broader efforts to modernize our nation’s grid and look forward to seeing the results of this project as it moves us one step closer to our renewable energy goals.”

Gardner applauded NREL researchers for their record turning early-stage research funding into what he termed “long-term benefits for the American people time and time again.” He added, “This funding is good news for their continued efforts in cutting-edge weather research.  By increasing the reliability of renewable energy source forecasting models, grid operators can more efficiently run these systems.”

the NREL project, dubbed the Probabilistic Cloud Optimized Day-Ahead Forecasting System, is one of eight awarded grants under the Department of Energy’s Solar Forecasting 2 funding program. It won a $1,720,806 grant to augment $212,482 budgeted by NREL to develop a publicly available, shared weather research system that’s constantly recalibrating in hopes of predicting when solar collectors can count on sunshine today and tomorrow — or, as the grant description has it, to “increase the accuracies of intra-day and day-ahead probabilistic solar forecasts.”

Another NREL project also won a grant in the same program, according to the Department of Energy.

Known as the Solar Uncertainty Management and Mitigation for Exceptional Reliability in Grid Operations project, it involves using probability models to create forecasts of available solar energy that can automatically integrate with electrical power systems in order to adjust reserve power levels as needed. Researchers plan to test the system with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to see if it increases economic efficiency and the system’s reliability. The project won a $1,698,933 grant on top of $331,930 will spend.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.