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Jared A. Lee, Walter C. Kolczynski, Tyler C. McCandless, and Sue Ellen Haupt


Ensembles of numerical weather prediction (NWP) model predictions are used for a variety of forecasting applications. Such ensembles quantify the uncertainty of the prediction because the spread in the ensemble predictions is correlated to forecast uncertainty. For atmospheric transport and dispersion and wind energy applications in particular, the NWP ensemble spread should accurately represent uncertainty in the low-level mean wind. To adequately sample the probability density function (PDF) of the forecast atmospheric state, it is necessary to account for several sources of uncertainty. Limited computational resources constrain the size of ensembles, so choices must be made about which members to include. No known objective methodology exists to guide users in choosing which combinations of physics parameterizations to include in an NWP ensemble, however. This study presents such a methodology.

The authors build an NWP ensemble using the Advanced Research Weather Research and Forecasting Model (ARW-WRF). This 24-member ensemble varies physics parameterizations for 18 randomly selected 48-h forecast periods in boreal summer 2009. Verification focuses on 2-m temperature and 10-m wind components at forecast lead times from 12 to 48 h. Various statistical guidance methods are employed for down-selection, calibration, and verification of the ensemble forecasts. The ensemble down-selection is accomplished with principal component analysis. The ensemble PDF is then statistically dressed, or calibrated, using Bayesian model averaging. The postprocessing techniques presented here result in a recommended down-selected ensemble that is about half the size of the original ensemble yet produces similar forecast performance, and still includes critical diversity in several types of physics schemes.

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Jared A. Lee, Sue Ellen Haupt, Pedro A. Jiménez, Matthew A. Rogers, Steven D. Miller, and Tyler C. McCandless


The Sun4Cast solar power forecasting system, designed to predict solar irradiance and power generation at solar farms, is composed of several component models operating on both the nowcasting (0–6 h) and day-ahead forecast horizons. The different nowcasting models include a statistical forecasting model (StatCast), two satellite-based forecasting models [the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere Nowcast (CIRACast) and the Multisensor Advection-Diffusion Nowcast (MADCast)], and a numerical weather prediction model (WRF-Solar). It is important to better understand and assess the strengths and weaknesses of these short-range models to facilitate further improvements. To that end, each of these models, including four WRF-Solar configurations, was evaluated for four case days in April 2014. For each model, the 15-min average predicted global horizontal irradiance (GHI) was compared with GHI observations from a network of seven pyranometers operated by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) in California. Each case day represents a canonical sky-cover regime for the SMUD region and thus represents different modeling challenges. The analysis found that each of the nowcasting models perform better or worse for particular lead times and weather situations. StatCast performs best in clear skies and for 0–1-h forecasts; CIRACast and MADCast perform reasonably well when cloud fields are not rapidly growing or dissipating; and WRF-Solar, when configured with a high-spatial-resolution aerosol climatology and a shallow cumulus parameterization, generally performs well in all situations. Further research is needed to develop an optimal dynamic blending technique that provides a single best forecast to energy utility operators.

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Sue Ellen Haupt, Branko Kosović, Tara Jensen, Jeffrey K. Lazo, Jared A. Lee, Pedro A. Jiménez, James Cowie, Gerry Wiener, Tyler C. McCandless, Matthew Rogers, Steven Miller, Manajit Sengupta, Yu Xie, Laura Hinkelman, Paul Kalb, and John Heiser


As integration of solar power into the national electric grid rapidly increases, it becomes imperative to improve forecasting of this highly variable renewable resource. Thus, a team of researchers from the public, private, and academic sectors partnered to develop and assess a new solar power forecasting system, Sun4Cast. The partnership focused on improving decision-making for utilities and independent system operators, ultimately resulting in improved grid stability and cost savings for consumers. The project followed a value chain approach to determine key research and technology needs to reach desired results.

Sun4Cast integrates various forecasting technologies across a spectrum of temporal and spatial scales to predict surface solar irradiance. Anchoring the system is WRF-Solar, a version of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) numerical weather prediction (NWP) model optimized for solar irradiance prediction. Forecasts from multiple NWP models are blended via the Dynamic Integrated Forecast (DICast) System, which forms the basis of the system beyond about 6 h. For short-range (0–6 h) forecasts, Sun4Cast leverages several observation-based nowcasting technologies. These technologies are blended via the Nowcasting Expert System Integrator (NESI). The NESI and DICast systems are subsequently blended to produce short- to midterm irradiance forecasts for solar array locations. The irradiance forecasts are translated into power with uncertainties quantified using an analog ensemble approach and are provided to the industry partners for real-time decision-making. The Sun4Cast system ran operationally throughout 2015 and results were assessed.

This paper analyzes the collaborative design process, discusses the project results, and provides recommendations for best-practice solar forecasting.

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