National Grid ESO embraces AI for accurate solar generation forecasts

The project is forecast to bring savings in balancing costs and carbon dioxide emissions

The Big Zero report

National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) has partnered with the non-profit startup Open Climate Fix (OCF) to use artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the way the grid forecasts solar generation.

The tool is designed to predict where sunlight will fall, by training a machine learning model to read satellite images and understand how and where clouds are moving in relation to solar arrays below.

The increased certainty in solar forecasts could mean fewer carbon-emitting generators held in reserve and bigger savings in balancing costs.

The ESO keeps reserve power, often flexible gas plants, to respond to unexpected changes in supply or demand.

Carolina Tortora, Head of Innovation Strategy and Digital Transformation at National Grid ESO, said: “Accurate forecasts for weather-dependent generation like solar and wind are vital for us in operating a low carbon electricity system. The more confidence we have in our forecasts, the less we’ll have to cover for uncertainty by keeping traditional, more controllable fossil fuel plants ticking over.”

Jack Kelly, Co-Founder of OCF, said: “All our work will be open-source, so others will be free to use the technology to help reduce emissions globally as rapidly as possible.”

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