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The Bright Future for Solar with the new 15-minute Solar Irradiance from OpenWeather

The Bright Future for Solar with the new 15-minute Solar Irradiance from OpenWeather

Posted on 14 Dec 2023

"Solar power, wind power, the way forward is to collaborate with nature - it's the only way we are going to get to the other end of the 21st century." - Bjork

The OpenWeather Solar Irradiance Service with a new 15-minute step

With the exciting release of an update to our Solar Irradiance and Energy Prediction service, we look into the state of the UK energy market, how it is developing, and actually how bright its future will be. 

Our newly updated Solar Irradiance & Energy service uses accurate historical, current, and forecast solar irradiance data to give the potential energy generation levels, calculated and optimized for certain locations, given varying cloud cover. This allows installation owners to reliably budget for any additional battery storage solutions. The service also allows for the prediction of energy generation levels before installation or identifies and fixes issues with current solar panels.

Our latest update supplies solar irradiance data with an incredible 15-minutes granularity, allowing you to make your API response even more accurate, timely, and precise.

Users can now specify their preferred time interval (either 15 minutes or 1 hour) for both the Solar Irradiance API and Solar Panel Energy Prediction API.

Solar Irradiance API:

  • Provides daily solar irradiation aggregation.

  • Offers 15-minute and 1-hour detailed information for the requested day.

  • Includes solar irradiation data (DNI, DHI, GHI) for both cloudy and clear sky models.

  • Presents a forecast for the next 15 days and historical data from January 1, 1979.

Solar Panel Energy Prediction API:

  • Allows users to estimate the energy output of a specific PV panel based on its technical characteristics (type, tilt, and azimuth angles) and our solar data.

  • API response includes daily solar panel power output data for each panel with 1-hour and 15-minute details.

  • Provides essential solar irradiance data (DNI, GHI, and DHI) with hourly, 15-minute, and 1-hour details.

  • Offers data spanning over 40 years (from January 1, 1979) and forecasts up to 15 days ahead.

  • Global coverage with data available in JSON format.

The Solar Industry

In a previous blog post, we visited the UK agricultural sector - in this article we will delve into the broader state of the UK solar energy market, and the various applications for solar installations.

Solar power is regarded as being one of the most reliable, low-impact, scalable and affordable of all renewable energy sources. In 2021, Solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems supplied more than 4% of all of the UK’s energy, with estimates that this could treble by 2030.

Unlike nuclear, coal and even other renewable energy sources, solar installations can vary in size from just a few millimeters to power our calculators and watches to the largest solar installation in the UK at Shotwick Park. This land-protective installation covers 220 acres, took only 10 weeks to install, and provides 60% of the total energy for the nearby paper recycling factory. It is estimated to save approximately £800,000 annually, making the paper re-manufacturing plant internationally competitive, as well as avoiding a total of 15,991 tonnes of Co2 being released into our fragile atmosphere each year.

OpenWeather plays an important role with our new 15-minute step offered by our newly updated OpenWeather Solar Irradiance Service that gives unprecedented levels of nuanced data that can be used to predict energy generation levels with even more certainty, helping reduce the risk of changeable weather conditions.

Solar Markets in the UK

The flexibility, and relative simplicity of solar energy enables different organizations and individuals to scale their energy production to their needs. 

The three main types of solar generation in the UK are:

Utility-scale solar deployment

This type of large-scale solar installation consists of multiple arrays of PV panels that contribute energy to the national grid. There are 9.3Gw worth of these installations already working in the UK. There are a further 17Gw in development, with between 3 and 4Gw of these being regarded as ‘shovel ready’, meaning that they have been granted permission for both grid-connection and planning, and are now awaiting construction. One of the major influences on the scale of utility-scale installation deployment is the cost of the solar cells themselves, which can fluctuate depending on levels of supply and demand.

Commercial-scale solar deployment

These solar installations tend to be between 4Kw and 5Mw, and can include projects installed on both business and public sector buildings, such as schools and hospitals. They can also include community solar projects where individuals from a particular community collaborate to create their own, collective solar array. 

Although there are no specific subsidies for community solar projects, there are a number of local and national initiatives to encourage communities to come together to create their own low-cost solar energy installation. 

For example, in London, Solar Together is a group-buying programme that allows communities to purchase solar panels, as well as battery storage solutions at competitive prices. The energy can be used for a number of purposes, including electric vehicle charging. So far, over 3000 homes have had solar panels successfully installed as a result of this particular initiative alone.

For commercial organizations, having on-site solar panels has the double benefit of reducing energy costs, as well as reducing the overall carbon footprint of the organization. With increased consumer awareness of the need to reduce carbon emissions globally, having an on-site, sustainable energy source can add to the green credentials of an organization, and be used for focused sales and marketing purposes. 

Residential-scale rooftop solar deployment

These domestic rooftop projects generally have a maximum capacity of 4Kw, with an average of 1.9Kw, but amounted to over 2.8Gw across the UK in 2020. There are over a million individual deployments across the entire UK.   

Despite not receiving government funding, and the end of the feed-in tariff in 2019, this sector has experienced consistent growth, and has recovered quickly since the coronavirus lockdowns. 

For homeowners, there are a number of benefits of having solar panels installed on their properties:

They provide a pollution-free and clean source of energy. Even though there are pollutants created in the manufacturing,  transportation and installation of PV cells, these are negligible compared with the pollutants created by the traditional coal, or even nuclear power generation. For an increasingly green-aware population, this can prove to be one of the main deciding factors in having a solar array installed. 

As the power source is the sun, there are zero power delivery costs, and can be seen as being especially suitable for residential properties in remote areas that would otherwise rely on kerosene to be delivered by tanker.

Technological improvements in both the PV cells, and battery storage means that more energy can be generated for the same amount of sunshine, with excess energy being stored for use at a later time, such as after dark. Installation is relatively simple (although do require a qualified technician), and maintenance is extremely low compared with other energy sources as PV cells do not have any moving parts. 

It is becoming increasingly apparent to governments, organizations, individuals as well as Icelandic musical superstars that our collective future will rely on the correct mix of technology, collaboration and legislation. 

In our next article in this series on solar energy, we will look at infrastructure and planning issues surrounding the increased levels of solar energy deployment in the UK.

The Weather, Solar Energy and OpenWeather

As we have seen, solar deployments can span a wide range of applications, from large commercial power farms to small and modest domestic installations.

Improving technologies mean that PV cell performance is improving, and there is an increased need for additional battery capacity to store the excess energy. To understand the battery requirements for a proposed solar installation, the potential energy generation levels need to be understood. 

About OpenWeather:

OpenWeather provides weather data for any location on the globe using a proprietary hyperlocal forecasting model with a resolution from 500 m to 2 km, globally. More than 6,000,000 customers from logistics, agriculture, insurance, energy, retail, and many other sectors, are working with the company's weather products. The products can be easily integrated into complex IT systems and are ideal for ML analytic systems. 

OpenWeather cooperates with global meteorological agencies such as MetOffice and NOAA, and enhances its model with data from radars, weather stations and satellites. The company provides great availability of service at 99.9% for enterprise-level products. 

OpenWeather is a member of Royal Meteorological Society and an Achilles-certified supplier. OpenWeather ethical initiatives include support of educators and students, not-for-profit subscriptions for the general public to increase weather awareness, and the recent Ukrainian donation programme.

For more information on how to gain access to our OpenWeather products, please email us.

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