First Solar Electric is one of the world leaders in Photo-voltaic power production. They have built the worlds largest PV plants in areas that you would never expect including Canada. My time there was spent in trying to come up with ways to forecast the movement of clouds over the power plants. This problem is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, the development and movement of cumulus clouds is extremely difficult, in fact it is close to random. Probabilistic forecasts are useful for the day ahead time frame but in the 1 hour ahead, small clouds can have a large impact on power production from individual plants. This problem is starting to be taken care of as plants become larger and more wide spread the relative impact of individual clouds is nullified.
In addition to researching the short range forecasting I advised engineers on the climate of potential plant sites around the world. Some of these sites involved significant research to find any data because of their remoteness. It really gave me an appreciation for how the NWS/NOAA keeps a great inventory of weather data around the United States. At times, these engineers also needed to investigate failure at the many plants whether structural or electrical. Both these failures were very rare but could have been caused by extreme weather conditions or construction faults and determining the weather at the time of failure was critical.
Tools Used at First Solar
- Microsoft office