Method to Calibrate a Solar Pyranometer for Measuring Reference Diffuse Irradiance

Ibrahim Reda, Tom Stoffel, Daryl Myers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus Citations


Accurate pyranometer calibrations, traceable to internationally recognized standards, are critical for solar irradiance measurements. One calibration method is the component summation, where the pyranometers are calibrated outdoors under clear sky conditions, and the reference global solar irradiance is calculated as the sum of two reference components, the diffuse and subtended beam solar irradiances. The beam component is measured with pyrheliometers traceable to the World Radiometric Reference, while there is no internationally recognized reference for the diffuse component. In the absence of such a reference, we present a method to consistently calibrate pyranometers for measuring the diffuse component with an estimated uncertainty of ±(3% of reading+1 W/m2). The method is based on using a modified shade/unshade method, and pyranometers with less than 1 W/m2 thermal offset errors. We evaluated the consistency of our method by calibrating three pyranometers four times. Calibration results show that the responsivity change is within ±0.52% for the three pyranometers. We also evaluated the effect of calibrating pyranometers unshaded, then using them shaded to measure diffuse irradiance. We calibrated three unshaded pyranometers using the component summation method. Their outdoor measurements of clear sky diffuse irradiance, from sunrise to sundown, showed that the three calibrated pyranometers can be used to measure the diffuse irradiance to within ±1.4 W/m2 variation from the reference irradiance. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)103-112
Number of pages10
JournalSolar Energy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2003

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-560-35025


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