First Steps in the Cross-Comparison of Solar Resource. Spatial Products in Europe

M. Suri1*, J. Remund2, T. Cebecauer1, D. Dumortier3, L. Wald4, T. Huld1 and P. Blanc4

1 European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Energy,

Renewable Energies Unit, via E. Fermi 2749, TP 450, I-21027 Ispra (VA), Italy
2 Meteotest, Fabrikstrasse 14, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland
3 Ecole Nationale des Travaux Publics d’Etat, Departement Genie Civil et Batiment,

URA CNRS 1652, Rue Maurice Audin, F-69518 Vaulx-en-Velin, Cedex, France
4 MINES ParisTech, Centre Energetique et Procedes, BP 207, 06904 Sophia Antipolis Cedex, France

* Corresponding Author, marcel. suri@jrc. it


Yearly sum of global irradiation is compared from six spatial (map) databases: ESRA, PVGIS, Meteonorm, Satel-Light, HelioCliom-2, and NASA SSE. This study does not identify the best database, but in a relative cross-comparison it points out to the areas of higher variability of outputs. Two maps are calculated to show an average of the yearly irradiation for horizontal surface together with the standard deviation that illustrates the combined effect of differences between the databases at the regional level. Differences at the local level are analysed on a set of 37 randomly selected points: global irradiation is calculated from subset of databases for southwards inclined (at 34°) and 2-axis tracking surfaces. Differences at the regional level indicate that within 90% of the study area the uncertainty of yearly global irradiation estimates (expressed by standard deviation) does not exceed 7% for horizontal surface, 8.3% for surface inclined at 34°, and 10% for 2-axis tracking surface. Higher differences in the outputs from the studied databases are found in complex climate conditions of mountains, along some coastal zones and in areas where solar radiation modelling cannot rely on sufficient density and quality of input data.

Keywords: solar radiation database, maps, benchmarking

1. Introduction

Solar energy technologies and energy simulation of buildings need high quality climatic data in the phase of localisation (siting), design, financing, and system operation and management. The choice of the best technological option depends among other things on the geographic region, as the performance of solar energy systems is influenced by solar resource and other climate parameters.

Several spatial databases of solar resource information are now available as a result of European and national projects. They have been developed from various data inputs, covering different time periods, where diverse approaches have been applied. Although quality assessments of the individual databases have been performed, no inter-comparison of the outputs was performed. When comparing various data sources, differences show up which is confusing, especially to users who are not fully aware of the uncertainties and the limits of data application. Therefore, better understanding of the geographic distribution and variability of solar resource in Europe is needed.

In this contribution we open a complex issue of benchmarking the solar radiation databases and underlying models for deriving information relevant to energy technology. We focus on a comparison of six spatial databases and integrated systems that offer solar resource and climate

data and energy-related services for Europe: Meteonorm [1], ESRA [2], Satel-Light [3], NASA SSE/RETScreen [4], HelioClim/SoDa [5], and PVGIS [6]. This list is not exhaustive, and in future also other databases may be considered, including those that cover smaller regions. We compare yearly sum of global irradiation as obtained by querying each database. Map analysis compares horizontal irradiation, while on a set of 37 randomly selected points we compare irradiation received by inclined and 2-axis tracking surfaces.

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