A new solar energy forecasting tool aims to reduce consumer costs and increase efficiency

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The technology will help the grid look 72 hours into the solar forecast (Source: Getty)

A new solar forecasting service has been developed by a research group at the University of Sheffield to help increase the efficiency of the UK's electricity system and reduce energy costs for consumers.

The tool uses weather forecasts and data from solar generating systems to forecast energy generation from the UK's solar panels for up to 72 hours ahead. Electricity grid operators as well as energy generators and traders can use it to plan for disruptions on the electricity network.

Because of the uncertainty around supply and demand with solar energy, standby generators are used to provide additional energy reserves. With accurate forecasts, reserve capacity can be reduced as needed, which will cut costs for the National Grid and reduce bills for consumers.

Sheffield Solar, the university's research group, has worked with the National Grid for two years developing a tool that estimates UK solar power generation in real time. Its new service will help energy managers better plan ahead in deciding which generators will be required throughout the day.

The group currently trials the service on its website, but it plans to develop it with researchers initially releasing a half hourly forecast, followed by a regional forecast and finally providing forecasts for individual energy systems around the country.

Renewable energy has made strides this year. In May, the UK generated nearly a quarter of the day's demand from solar panels, and in one lunchtime in June more than 50 per cent of electricity demand was generated by renewable energy.

As the UK moves towards a smart grid system, it is important to monitor energy sources and balance renewables with other generating technologies, Sheffield Solar said.

Read more: UK energy networks work to create new opportunities with the smart grid