Transfer learning strategies for solar power forecasting under data scarcity

Sci Rep. 2022 Aug 27;12(1):14643. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-18516-x.


Accurately forecasting solar plants production is critical for balancing supply and demand and for scheduling distribution networks operation in the context of inclusive smart cities and energy communities. However, the problem becomes more demanding, when there is insufficient amount of data to adequately train forecasting models, due to plants being recently installed or because of lack of smart-meters. Transfer learning (TL) offers the capability of transferring knowledge from the source domain to different target domains to resolve related problems. This study uses the stacked Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) model with three TL strategies to provide accurate solar plant production forecasts. TL is exploited both for weight initialization of the LSTM model and for feature extraction, using different freezing approaches. The presented TL strategies are compared to the conventional non-TL model, as well as to the smart persistence model, at forecasting the hourly production of 6 solar plants. Results indicate that TL models significantly outperform the conventional one, achieving 12.6% accuracy improvement in terms of RMSE and 16.3% in terms of forecast skill index with 1 year of training data. The gap between the two approaches becomes even bigger when fewer training data are available (especially in the case of a 3-month training set), breaking new ground in power production forecasting of newly installed solar plants and rendering TL a reliable tool in the hands of self-producers towards the ultimate goal of energy balancing and demand response management from an early stage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cities
  • Forecasting
  • Machine Learning
  • Solar Energy*
  • Sunlight