Validation of All-Sky Imager Technology and Solar Irradiance Forecasting at Three Locations: NREL, San Antonio, Texas, and the Canary Islands, Spain
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Increasing photovoltaic (PV) generation in the world’s power grid necessitates accurate solar irradiance forecasts to ensure grid stability and reliability. The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) SkyImager was designed as a low cost, edge computing, all-sky imager that provides intra-hour irradiance forecasts. The SkyImager utilizes a single board computer and high-resolution camera with a fisheye lens housed in an all-weather enclosure. General Purpose IO pins allow external sensors to be connected, a unique aspect is the use of only open source software. Code for the SkyImager is written in Python and calls libraries such as OpenCV, Scikit-Learn, SQLite, and Mosquito. The SkyImager was first deployed in 2015 at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) as part of the DOE INTEGRATE project. This effort aggregated renewable resources and loads into microgrids which were then controlled by an Energy Management System using the OpenFMB Reference Architecture. In 2016 a second SkyImager was installed at the CPS Energy microgrid at Joint Base San Antonio. As part of a collaborative effort between CPS Energy, UT San Antonio, ENDESA, and Universidad de La Laguna, two SkyImagers have also been deployed in the Canary Islands that utilize stereoscopic images to determine cloud heights. Deployments at three geographically diverse locations not only provided large amounts of image data, but also operational experience under very different climatic conditions. This resulted in improvements/additions to the original design: weatherproofing techniques, environmental sensors, maintenance schedules, optimal deployment locations, OpenFMB protocols, and offloading data to the cloud. Originally, optical flow followed by ray-tracing was used to predict cumulus cloud shadows. The latter problem is ill-posed and was replaced by a machine learning strategy with impressive results. <i>R</i><sup>2</sup> values for the multi-layer perceptron of 0.95 for 5 moderately cloudy days and 1.00 for 5 clear sky days validate using images to determine irradiance. The SkyImager in a distributed environment with cloud-computing will be an integral part of the command and control for today’s SmartGrid and Internet of Things.