Characteristic Profile: Improved Solar Power Forecasting Using Seasonality Models

Julian de Hoog (University of Melbourne); Maneesha Perera (The University of Melbourne); Peter Ilfrich ( Melbourne, Australia); Saman Halgamuge (The University of Melbourne)


The rapid uptake of rooftop solar photovoltaic systems is introducing many challenges in the management of distribution networks, energy markets, and energy storage systems. Many of these problems can be alleviated with accurate short term solar power forecasts. However, forecasting the power output of distributed rooftop solar PV systems can be challenging, since many complex local factors can affect solar output. A common approach when forecasting such systems is to extract the daily seasonality from the time series using some form of seasonality model, and then forecast only the residuals that remain after seasonality extraction. In this work, we explore in detail the effectiveness of three commonly used seasonality models, and we propose a new one, called the “characteristic profile”. We find that when seasonality models are integrated into the forecasting process, significant gains in forecast accuracy may be obtained – particularly for machine learning based approaches, which have a reduction in forecast error of 5-25%. Among the seasonality models, the characteristic profile demonstrates the highest forecast accuracy, resulting in reductions in forecast error of 8% or more compared to forecasting models that do not take seasonality into account. The benefits of this approach are particularly pronounced when forecasting solar PV systems that are curtailed, suffer from local shading, or consist of multiple sets of panels having different orientations and tilts. Our results are demonstrated on a high resolution dataset obtained from 258 sites in Western Australia over the course of a full year.