Cluster analysis for classification and forecasting of solar irradiance in Durban, South Africa

Keywords: numerical weather prediction, cloud cover, k-means, classes


Clustering of solar irradiance patterns was used in conjunction with cloud cover forecasts from Numerical Weather Predictions for day-ahead forecasting of irradiance. Beam irradiance as a function of time during daylight was recorded over a one-year period in Durban, to which k-means clustering was applied to produce four classes of day with diurnal patterns characterised as sunny all day, cloudy all day, sunny morning-cloudy afternoon, and cloudy morning-sunny afternoon. Two forecasting methods were investigated. The first used k-means clustering on predicted daily cloud cover profiles. The second used a rule whereby predicted cloud cover profiles were classified according to whether their average in the morning and afternoon were above or below 50%. In both methods, four classes were found, which had diurnal patterns associated with the irradiance classes that were used to forecast the irradiance class for the day ahead. The two methods had a comparable success rate of about 65%; the cloud cover clustering method was better for sunny and cloudy days; and the 50% rule was better for mixed cloud conditions.


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