Workshop: Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning

Comparing the carbon costs and benefits of low-resource solar nowcasting

Ben Dixon · Jacob Bieker · Maria Perez-Ortiz


Mitigating emissions in line with climate goals requires the rapid integration of low carbon energy sources, such as solar photovoltaics (PV) into the electricity grid. However, the energy produced from solar PV fluctuates due to clouds obscuring the sun's energy. Solar PV yield nowcasting is used to help anticipate peaks and troughs in demand to support grid integration. This paper compares multiple low-resource approaches to nowcasting solar PV yield. To do so, we use a dataset of UK satellite imagery and solar PV energy readings over a 1 to 4-hour time range. Our work investigates the performance of multiple nowcasting models. The paper also estimates the carbon emissions generated and averted by deploying models such as these, and finds that short-term PV forecasting may have a benefit several orders of magnitude greater than its carbon cost and that this benefit holds for small models that could be deployable in low-resource settings around the globe.

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