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Sunshine, biofuel and the tides, oh my!
Date:12/4/2012

SAN FRANCISCO - Scientists from the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will present a variety of alternative energy-related research at the 2012 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, which runs Monday, Dec. 3 through Friday, Dec. 7 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. Topics to be discussed include improving solar power forecasting, measuring the resources needed to grow algae for biofuel and predicting the environmental impacts of ocean energy. Summaries of some of PNNL's noteworthy presentations are below.

Forecasting clouds to improve solar power

The sun's fleeting nature has limited our ability to turn sunshine into electricity. While we can easily foretell when the sun will rise and fall each day, predicting the intermittent daytime shading created by continually morphing clouds is much more difficult. Repeated appearing and disappearing acts by clouds lead to large fluctuations in solar power generation, which makes balancing supply and demand on the power grid a challenge. But now PNNL scientists propose using a new approach to predict clouds from 5 minutes to about an hour ahead of time, giving grid operators a chance to adapt before solar power ramps up or down. Initially created for climate research, the approach uses an instrument called a total/diffuse pyranometer. Depending on their size, shape and thickness, clouds can affect light coming from the sun in many different ways to produce varying amounts of sunshine. Total/diffuse pyranometers enable scientists to measure direct and indirect solar radiation, both of which are used in different types of solar power generation. Next, the new approach uses a PNNL-developed method to forecast the clouds that will appear in the near future, what properties those clouds will have and how much direct and indirect solar radiation will make it past the clouds and onto the earth's surface. PNNL's Chuck Long will present the research.

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Contact: Franny White
frannny.white@pnnl.gov
509-375-6904
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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