Solar Resource Assessment: Databases, Measurements, Models, and Information Sources (Fact Sheet) Page: 1 of 2
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Solar Resource Assessment
Databases, Measurements, Models, and Information Sources
Understanding the Resource
Like the weather, solar radiation resources vary with
geographic location and time. Understanding these
spatial and temporal variations is important for
addressing key aspects of renewable energy technology -
* Technology Selection
* Site Selection
* System Design
* System Performance
* System Operations
This fact sheet introduces key concepts and reference
information useful for solar power developers and other
The National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB) was
developed by the National Renewable Energy
Laboratory (NREL) and the National Climatic Data
Center (NCDC) to provide solar planners and designers,
building architects and engineers, renewable energy
analysts, and countless others with extensive solar
The database has two periods of record with content
based upon solar and meteorological data available at the
time. The 1991-2005 NSRDB Update contains hourly
solar radiation (including global, direct, and diffuse) and
meteorological data for 1,454 stations. This update
builds on the original 1961-1990 NSRDB, which
contains data for 239 stations. The update includes the
conventional time series for NSRDB ground stations as
well as a one-tenth-degree gridded data set that contains
hourly solar records for 8 years (1998-2005) for the
United States (except Alaska above 600 latitude) for
about 100,000 pixel locations (at a nominal 10-km-by-
10-km pixel size).
Typical Meteorological Year (TMY) data sets have been
produced from each of the NSRDB periods. These data
sets contain 8,760 hourly records selected from the
NSRDB to represent a single year of solar resources and
weather conditions at each station. TMY data provide a
consistent basis for analyses.
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Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI) from satellite-based
model estimates (1998-2005)
Measurements and Instrumentation
Historically, measurements of solar radiation in the U.S.
have been limited due to the expense of deploying and
maintaining the instruments. For example, 40 of the
1,454 stations in the updated NSRDB included solar
measurements. Available measured data have been used
to validate radiation models developed for estimating the
solar resources. However, the renewable energy and
climate research communities are finding these
measurements of increasing value.
A variety of commercially available instruments can be
used to accurately monitor solar irradiance
Solar Irradiance Measurcements
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Pyrheliometers and Pyranometers provide 1-min data at
NREL's Solar Radiation Research Laboratory.
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Solar Resource Assessment: Databases, Measurements, Models, and Information Sources (Fact Sheet), report, October 1, 2008; Golden, Colorado. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc898674/m1/1/: accessed October 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.