Technical Brief

URB-Solar: An open-source tool for Solar Power Prediction in Urban Areas

[+] Author and Article Information
Venugopalan S. G. Raghavan

Fluid Dynamics Department Institute of High Performance Computing 1 Fusionopolis Way #16-16 Connexis Singapore 138632

Harish Gopalan

Fluid Dynamics Department Institute of High Performance Computing 1 Fusionopolis Way #16-16 Connexis Singapore 138632

1Corresponding author.

ASME doi:10.1115/1.4040756 History: Received November 08, 2017; Revised June 20, 2018


The accurate prediction of the direct and diffuse solar radiation is of foremost importance for deployment of photovoltaic systems. A number of solar radiation forecasting techniques have been developed for longer and shorter forecasting times. Numerical weather prediction (NWP) models provide the best results for the longer forecasting times (4-6 hours), required by utility companies. However, NWP methods are usually developed for clear-sky and open areas. These methods cannot be directly applied to urban areas with shading, trees, multi-surface reflection and other sources of solar radiation losses. To overcome these issues, improvement to existing prediction tools are required. In this study, we develop an automated radiation forecasting tool for urban areas. This tool combines a numerical weather prediction model (Weather Research and Forecasting model) and a solar calculator (developed in the numerical toolbox OpenFOAM) to compute shading, reflection and other losses in the urban canopy. An algorithm for extraction of building outlines, and heights (if they are publicly available) is also developed as a part of the tool. Finally, the coupled solar power estimator can be applied to past, present, or future solar power predictions. Initial results obtained using the developed tool are demonstrated for an urban neighborhood in Singapore.

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