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Solar panels installed on homes across ACT needed by researchers for local power study

2015-11-25 14:55:30

Solar panels on roof of house and hot water system in Canberra, ACT.
PHOTO: A data logger will be installed in participants' meter boxes to see how much solar energy is being produced.(Clarissa Thorpe: ABC News)

ANU researchers are collaborating with Data61's Machine Learning Research Group — formerly National ICT Australia (NICTA) — to develop methods of forecasting power output from rooftop solar energy systems.

Dr Christfried Webers from the ANU's College of Engineering and Computer Science said that while total energy output could be measured over long periods, little was known about changing energy output across the day.


"What we need is to be able to predict how much energy will be produced over five minutes to 60 minutes," he said.

"That's necessary information for the energy market operator — they need information on what's coming from hour to hour.

"It's also important for the local utility providers because they have a spinning reserve running and if they can anticipate an energy drop, they can ramp that up when they need to."

Close to 13 per cent of households in the ACT have solar panels generating power.

"If that reaches 30 per cent, it will become vital to predict what energy will be produced to ensure the stability of the grid," Dr Webers said.

How the weather can impact

Dr Webers said he hoped the project would allow his team to develop software to forecast the solar output from each suburb using low-cost data-logging devices installed on individual homes.

"We need to collect the data in real time from panels currently in use, so we have built a data logger which measures currents and doesn't interfere with the solar panel system on the roof," he said.

"On a clear sky day it's quite easy to predict the amount of energy produced by solar panels, but the real challenge is when we have clouds, because a cloud will lead to a drop in the energy production.

"We want to be able to counteract that drop in energy production by predicting the energy drop [by aligning it with the weather forecast]."

Dr Webers said data from 60 houses across the ACT would be required to make the study viable.

"This project will allow us to predict what will be fed into the grid at a particular time," he said.

Participants will have a data logger installed in their residential meter boxes, which will allow researchers to track the production of solar energy and the times panels produce the most electricity.

Canberra residents interested in participating in the project can register their interest with NICTA.

Original Article:
By Hannah Walmsley with Philip Clark
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