Solar energyProject Integrated Solar Radiation Data Sources over Australia
CSIRO and its partners developed Australia’s first comprehensive solar radiation data set to help the solar energy industry measure and characterise the expected output of large scale solar power plants.
Solar generating capacity in Australia has been growing to an estimated installed capacity exceeding 4,000 MW, particularly with the proliferation of grid-connected roof-top PV, as well as the more recent large scale solar installation at Nyngam, Broken Hill and Royalla (with other MW-scale plants due to become operational in the near term). An accurate and reliable solar resource assessment is therefore essential to assist with planning and development of new solar generation. Indeed, solar power developers and financiers regard uncertainty in the volatility (or inter-annual variability) of solar irradiance as a crucial element in the estimation of the power output of solar farms, and ultimately their financing.
The aim of the 36-month, 1.4 million, project Integrated Solar Radiation Data Sources over Australia (ISRDSA) was to provide solar power developers and installers with an improved solar data resource and an enhanced understanding of its uncertainty by exploiting three sources of solar radiation data: ground based, satellite- derived and atmospheric model output. The project, co-funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), was coordinated by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and was executed in partnership with the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and the US Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
Conventionally the main widely available sources of resource (or historical) solar radiation data for Australia have been ground station observations and satellite-derived products. The former represent the best quality data, since it provides what is actually seen at ground level, where potential solar plants are planned and/or installed. However, high-quality ground stations are expensive to set up and maintain. This is why the current network is sparse and often not sufficient for industry needs. Satellite-derived radiation data, on the other hand, offer the advantage of a much wider coverage at the expense of accuracy (it is a derived quantity) and temporal resolution (currently only hourly instantaneous data are available).