NREL: American-Made Challenges Announces Launch of Solar Forecasting Prize, Puts up $375K in Winnings

On Oct. 25, the American-Made Challenges (AMC) launched the American-Made Solar Forecasting Prize, the latest in its growing collection of prizes, sponsored by the U.S Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office. This is the first prize in the AMC program to focus specifically on identifying innovations and accelerating the development of solar forecasting.

Through this prize, AMC expects to bolster the use of Solar Forecast Arbiter (SFA), an open platform developed by the University of Arizona, to allow for the transparent, rigorous, and consistent analysis and further evolution of solar forecasts.

“Grid operators need tools to accurately calculate how much power solar plants will generate a day ahead of time, and the Solar Forecasting Prize was created to deliver those tools,” said Garrett Nilsen, acting director of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. “I’m excited to see the competitors rise to the two-fold challenge of developing both the technologies and a commercialization plan.”

Consistent with other AMC prizes, the Solar Forecasting Prize awards cash prizes to the winning teams. In this case, as many as five teams can win $50,000 each for showcasing the best performing algorithm with the strongest commercialization plan, and the five runner-up teams can pull in $25,000.

Each prize is slightly different, but they all generally follow the same formula—awarding cash and cash-equivalent prizes to teams bringing forth the strongest submissions in a given category. To better inform those who are planning to “accept the challenge,” and those who just wish to learn more about this prize specifically, the prize administrators have organized an informal webinar on Monday, Nov. 8, at 12 p.m. ET.

The Need for Reliable Forecasting Capabilities
Probabilistic forecasts are being recognized as a critical tool for cost-effective reserve allocation and unit scheduling. Considering a future with high-penetration weather-bound renewable energy generation is becoming increasingly important. Additionally, independent system operators agree that solar forecasting is an important part of system operations, and forecasting becomes even more important as the fraction of variable weather-dependent generation increases.

“When we create a new prize, we’re looking for opportunities to develop critical research areas that need improvement,” said Emily Evans, Solar Forecasting Prize administrator at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “In the solar industry, accurate, reliable forecasting is becoming increasingly important to power systems operators but hasn’t been widely adopted into energy management systems.”

The prize outlines its approach to solving solar forecasting issues by increasing stakeholder awareness of the state of the art in solar forecasting, incentivizing the participation of a broad range of competitors from the solar forecasting industry and research and development space, and growing industry knowledge of the SFA platform and its potential. It hopes also to promote the adoption of uniform and transparent metrics and specifications for solar forecasts using SFA (or similar platforms) by forecast end-users and identify algorithms that perform better than a baseline probabilistic forecast.

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