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Christian A.


Short-term Variability (1)

Direct normal irradiance (DNI) global horizontal irradiance (GHI) vary smoothly under clear skies, but can vary extremely fast under partly cloudy skies, e.g., from 0 to 1000 W/m2 in a second for DNI. These fast transient conditions did not show easily in the past, when only hourly data were available. Time steps of 1-min become the norm for firstclass stations. Some research stations use 1-sec to 5-sec time steps.
Example Typical partly-cloudy day for Oahu, HI GHI up to 25% more than ETHI* during lensing effect peaks, around noon. DNI also increases by a few %, due to large transient circumsolar diffuse. * Extraterrestrial horizontal irradiance

Short-term Variability (2)

Short-term variability may be a problem for PV/CPV due to peaks in power output that need to be absorbed. CSP plants cant usually operate below some threshold DNI. Q: Can these transient effects be correctly accounted for in the daily, monthly or annual solar resource if the irradiance is not measured fast enough?
0 1 Example 100 200 Typical day in Oahu, HI 300 Various thresholds: 0, 100, 200 and 300 W/m2 0.95 Various measurement 2 Threshold (W/m ) time steps considered: 3 sec, 1 min, 15 min, 1 hr 0.9 Hourly time step may be Oahu, Hawaii too coarse for accurate 5 July 2010 2 system simulation Total DNI: 7 kWh/m No gain in accuracy 0.85 1 100 likely for steps < 1 min 3 sec 1 min This topic needs further Time step (sec) research, toward the definition of an optimum measurement (or modeled) data time step. Relative daily irradiation

15 min

1 hr

Interannual Variability (1)

There are good years and bad years in everything, like in GHI, and even more so in DNI, due to: Climate cycles (El Nio, La Nia), changes in release of natural aerosols, increase or decrease in pollution, volcanic eruptions, climate change For GHI, it might take only 23 years of measurement to be within 5% of the longterm mean. For DNI, it takes much longer, up to 515 years. Short measurement periods (e.g. 1 year) are not sufficient for serious DNI resource assessment! Special techniques must be used to correct long-term modeled data using short-term measured data.

Eugene data: http://solardat.uoregon.edu/

Interannual Variability (2)

Interannual variability in DNI is much higher (at least double) than that in GHI. This variability is higher in cloudier climates (low Kn), but still significant in clearer regions (high Kn), which are targeted by CSP/CPV.

Plots and maps provide this variability in terms of Coefficient of Variation (COV): COV = St. Dev. / Mean
This is significant at only a 66% probability level. For a bankable 95% probability, double the COV results.

C.A. Gueymard, Fixed or tracking solar collectors? Helping the decision process with the Solar Resource Enhancement Factor. SPIE Conf. #7046, 2008. S. Wilcox and C.A. Gueymard, Spatial and temporal variability in the solar resource in the United States. ASES Conf., 2010.


Long-term Variability (1)

Only the past solar resource can be known with some (relative) degree of certainty. But the goal of resource assessment is to obtain projections of 2030 years into the future. Q: How can this be done if there are unknown forcings that result in long-term trends? Only a handful of stations in the world have measured radiation for more than 50 years. Long-term trends in GHI and DNI have been detected. Periods of Brightening and Dimming are now documented.
GHI, 19372006 Potsdam, Germany

Early brightening



Long-term Variability (2)

Long-term trends do not affect the world equally. Current results indicate a brightening in most of the NH, and a dimming in the tropical regions of the NH and SH. India and China are directly affected, most probably because of the current increase in coal burning and pollution (Asian Brown Cloud).

Trends in GHI (% per decade)

Good news in some areas, bad news in others!

M. Wild et al., J. Geophys. Res. 114D, doi:10.1029/2008JD011382, 2009 M. Wild, J. Geophys. Res. 114D, doi:10.1029/2008JD011470, 2009

How Long-term Variability (3)

Most long-term variability results are for GHI (because most available data). One difficulty is to transform these results into DNI variability. There are regions where DNI varies more than GHI, others where the reverse occurs.
How the resource will vary during the next 2030 years depends on many unknowns: Air quality regulations and Kyoto-type accords Climate change evolution Possible geoengineering (forced dimming) Volcanic eruptions, etc. So nobody has a definite answer!

L.D. Riihimaki et al., J. Geophys. Res. 114D, doi:10.1029/2008JD010970, 2009

Long-term Variability (4) Main Causes

Cloud climatology Emissions of black carbon (BC) and other aerosols Humidity patterns


Spatial Variability
Spatial variability is important for two reasons: In regions of low spatial variability, use of low-res resource maps (e.g., 100x100 km) might be OK, at least for preliminary design. Conversely, in regions of high spatial variability, only hi-res maps (10x10 km or better) should be used. If variability is high, measured data from only nearby weather stations should be trusted.
5x5 matrix 10x10 km grid cells

S. Wilcox and C.A. Gueymard, Spatial and temporal variability in the solar resource in the United States. ASES Conf., 2010.

Typical Meteorological YearTMY (1)

For decades, TMYs have been used by engineers to simulate solar systems or building energy performance. TMYs conveniently replace 30 years of data with a single typical year. Models of solar system power output prediction (e.g., PVWatts, http://www.nrel.gov/rredc/pvwatts/) or of performance and economic estimates to help decision making (e.g., Solar Advisor Model, https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/sam/) still rely heavily on TMY-type data. To define each of the 12 months of a synthetic year, TMYs use weighting factors to select the most typical year among a long series of available data (including modeled irradiance). In the U.S., three different series of TMY files have been produced. The weight they all use for DNI is relatively small. It should not be construed that TMY3 is more advanced or better than TMY2!
TMY Period TMY data for the U.S. GHI weight DNI weight # Stations 19521975 12/24 0 222 TMY2 1961-1990 5/20 5/20 239 TMY3 (i) 19762005 (ii) 19912005 5/20 5/20 (i) 239 (ii) 950

Typical Meteorological YearTMY (2)

Q: Are TMY data appropriate for all solar applications?
TMYs have some potential drawbacks: Solar TMY data is 100% modeled. At clear sites, the TMY2/TMY3 hourly distributions usually show discrepancies above 500 W/m2, compared to measured data. This is due to the use of climatological monthly values (rather than discrete daily values) for the aerosol data. Hourly values are used. This may not be ideal for non-linear systems with thresholds above 150 W/m2 (due to short-term variability). Non-typical bad years are excluded from the data pool. Using TMYs for risk assessment is risky.
20 Golden, CO Sunup hourly frequencies Measured NSRDB TMY3

Hourly frequencies of 19912005 NSRDB data used to obtain TMY3 for Golden, CO. Compared to measurements, note the NSRDB and TMY3 overestimations below 900 W/m2, and underestimations above.

16 Frequency %

12 8

4 0










1000 1100

DNI bins (W/m )

Typical Meteorological YearTMY (3)

To obtain bankable data, the use of TMYs is inappropriate. The risk of bad years cannot be assessed correctly. TMY may seriously overestimate the P90 exceedance probability. Example: For Boulder, the total annual DNI from TMY2 happens to correspond to P50, but this is probably not a general rule.

Local Measurements
Critical part of solar resource assessment, necessary to sort out local variability effects at different time scales! Two types of weather stations, depending on radiometer technology. Minimum measurement period recommended: 1 year. Performance and prices vary [Ask us for more details and custom solutions!] These short-term measurements should then be used to correct long-term satellite-based modeled data using appropriate statistical methods.

Thank you!