Fast All-Sky Radiation Model for Solar Applications (FARMS): A Brief Overview of Mechanisms, Performance, and Applications: Preprint

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Solar radiation can be computed using radiative transfer models, such as the Rapid Radiation Transfer Model (RRTM) and its general circulation model applications, and used for various energy applications. Due to the complexity of computing radiation fields in aerosol and cloudy atmospheres, simulating solar radiation can be extremely time-consuming, but many approximations--e.g., the two-stream approach and the delta-M truncation scheme--can be utilized. To provide a new fast option for computing solar radiation, we developed the Fast All-sky Radiation Model for Solar applications (FARMS) by parameterizing the simulated diffuse horizontal irradiance and direct normal irradiance for cloudy conditions from the RRTM runs using a 16-stream discrete ordinates radiative transfer method. The solar irradiance at the surface was simulated by combining the cloud irradiance parameterizations with a fast clear-sky model, REST2. To understand the accuracy and efficiency of the newly developed fast model, we analyzed FARMS runs using cloud optical and microphysical properties retrieved using GOES data from 2009-2012. The global horizontal irradiance for cloudy conditions was simulated using FARMS and RRTM for global circulation modeling with a two-stream approximation and compared to measurements taken from the U.S. Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility Southern Great Plains site. Our results indicate that the accuracy of FARMS is comparable to or better than the two-stream approach; however, FARMS is approximately 400 times more efficient because it does not explicitly solve the radiative transfer equation for each individual cloud condition. Radiative transfer model runs are computationally expensive, but this model is promising for broad applications in solar resource assessment and forecasting. It is currently being used in the National Solar Radiation Database, which is publicly available from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory at
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages5
StatePublished - 2016
EventEuropean PV Solar Conference and Exhibition (EU PVSEC) - Munich, Germany
Duration: 20 Jun 201624 Jun 2016


ConferenceEuropean PV Solar Conference and Exhibition (EU PVSEC)
CityMunich, Germany

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5D00-66566


  • radiative transfer
  • solar energy


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