NREL, Iberdrola deploy first U.S. solar resource measuring stations

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The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Iberdrola Renewables say they have jointly deployed the first of several solar resource measuring stations as part of a planned instrumentation network throughout the U.S.

The stations, located across Arizona, are part of NREL’s Solar Resource and Meteorological Assessment Project (SOLRMAP), a collaboration between the national laboratory and the energy industry to collect precise, long-term solar resource measurements. The information will be used in technical analyses that seek to minimize the risk of launching commercial solar energy conversion projects, including concentrated solar power plants.

NREL and Ibderdrola installed the inaugural measurement station using an Irradiance Inc. rotating shadowband radiometer for global, direct, and diffuse solar measurements. The radiometers will document strength and consistency of the sunlight at the station locations and will also amass wind and temperature measurements.

“The project is a win-win collaboration between NREL and industry to optimize the quality of solar resource data used to evaluate the viability of large-scale projects in the southwest U.S.,” said Steve Wilcox, a senior scientist with NREL’s solar radiation research program and the laboratory’s lead in the SOLRMAP collaboration. “SOLRMAP supports the solar industry as a whole by providing NREL a broader database by which to improve solar resource models.”

“Our expertise as one of the nation’s leading wind-power project developers has uniquely prepared us to responsibly develop renewable technologies of various types, including solar,” said Martin Mugica, Iberdrola’s senior VP of renewables. “We are pleased to work closely with NREL as we take this important step to develop solar technology solutions.”

NREL says it will combine the SOLRMAP data with information at existing regional solar radiation networks to upgrade models supporting a database of 10-km resolution solar resource data across the country.

The lab’s researchers and analysts will use the data collected to improve solar modeling, solar resource forecasting, and database development. The data must accurately depict the spatial (geographic), temporal (hourly, daily, and seasonal), and spectral (wavelength distribution) variability of the solar radiation resource at different locations.

SOLRMAP industry partners help with funding for instruments, maintenance, and station operations, while NREL offers expertise for station design, instrument selection, data acquisition, quality procedures, data analysis, calibrations, and data distribution.

NREL is working with several other companies to install SOLRMAP stations and says it hopes to open the project in the near future to even more participants who might be planning concentrating solar power plants.

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