Machine learning versus ray-tracing to forecast irradiance for an edge-computing SkyImager
With increasing use of photovoltaic (PV) power generation by utilities and their residential customers, the need for accurate intra-hour and day-ahead solar irradiance forecasting has become critical. This paper details the development of a low cost all-sky imaging system and an intra-hour cloud motion prediction methodology that produces minutes-ahead irradiance forecasts. The SkyImager is designed around a Raspberry Pi single board computer (SBC) with a fully programmable, high resolution Pi Camera, housed in a durable all-weather enclosure. Our software is written in Python 2.7 and utilizes the open source computer vision package OpenCV. The SkyImager can be configured for different operational environments and network designs, from a standalone edge computing model to a fully integrated node in a distributed, cloud-computing based micro-grid. Preliminary results are presented using the imager on site at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, CO, USA during the fall of 2015 under a variety of cloud conditions.