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Project overview
  • Lead Organisation



    Australian Capital Territory

    ARENA Program

    Australian Solar Institute

  • Start date

    1 September 2012

    End date

    15 December 2015

  • Project Partners
    National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM)
    This solar PV project was completed on 15 December 2015.


CSIRO and its partners developed Australia’s first comprehensive solar radiation data set to help the solar energy industry measure and characertise the expected output of large scale solar power plants.

Key results

  • High standard solar radiation based tools for the solar industry require quality observation In principle a number of solar radiation data sources are available e.g. solar radiation collected for agriculture purposes. In practice, however, their quality is disparate. So although these data can be used, the effort required to quality control and assure them should not be underestimated.
  • The dearth of quality direct beam (the direct normal irradiance, DNI) observations together with the higher complexity of these data, compared to the more standard global horizontal irradiance (GHI), have meant that more time had to be spent in cleaning and interpreting these direct beam data.
  • The signing of the agreement between CSIRO and NREL, a subcontractor to CSIRO in the project, took much longer than anticipated. Such unexpected delay, due to the complexity of the two organisations involved, led to both lengthy negotiations and delays in the execution of the project.


High quality information about solar radiation (solar energy) helps investors understand the potential for Australian solar technologies.

Such information is critical to securing finance, estimating power production and planning new solar power plants.

Project innovation

This project helped reduce one of the key barriers to development of large-scale solar power plants, which is a lack of understanding about the irregular supply of electricity from renewable energy sources.

CSIRO and its partners developed Australia’s first comprehensive solar radiation data set by gathering together solar radiation data from Australian ground stations, satellite-derived data and, especially, atmospheric model simulations to provide solar radiation estimates. The estimates enhance the ability of the solar energy industry to measure and characterise the expected output of large scale solar power plants.

The project also assessed the quantity and distribution of ground stations required in Australia to reduce solar radiation uncertainty at key locations. Observations, satellite-derived data and model simulations were used for this analysis.


By helping investors understand solar radiation and power generation potential, this information reduces the investment risk for the power plant and financier, a key barrier to developing large-scale solar power plants.

The collaboration with NREL (United States) helped ensure internationally consistent standards for solar radiation modelling. The Bureau of Meteorology data and measurement expertise underpinned solar radiation estimates.

The estimates provide a basis for developing solar forecasting tools, which energy market operators need to plan and schedule large-scale solar power generation.

Last updated 29 January 2021
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