NREL Pyrheliometer Comparisons: September 25-October 6, 2017 (NPC-2017)

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Accurate measurements of direct normal (beam) solar irradiance from pyrheliometers are important for developing and deploying solar energy conversion systems, improving our understanding of the Earth's energy budget for climate change studies, and for other science and technology applications involving solar flux. Providing these measurements places many demands on the quality system used by the operator of commercially available radiometers. Maintaining accurate radiometer calibrations that are traceable to an international standard is the first step in producing research-quality solar irradiance measurements. In 1977, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) established the World Radiometric Reference (WRR) as the international standard for the measurement of direct normal solar irradiance (Frohlich 1991). The WRR is an internationally recognized, detector-based measurement standard determined by the collective performance of six electrically self-calibrated absolute cavity radiometers comprising the World Standard Group (WSG). Various countries, including the United States, have contributed these specialized radiometers to the Physikalisch-Meteorologisches Observatorium Davos - World Radiation Center (PMOD/WRC) to establish the WSG. As with all measurement systems, Absolute Cavity Radiometers (ASR) are subject to performance changes over time. Therefore, every five years the PMOD/WRC in Davos, Switzerland, hosts an International Pyrheliometer Comparison (IPC) for transferring the WRR to participating radiometers. NREL has represented the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in each IPC since 1980. As a result, NREL has developed and maintained a select group of absolute cavity radiometers with direct calibration traceability to the WRR, and uses these reference instruments to calibrate pyrheliometers and pyranometers using the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 17025 accredited Broadband Outdoor Radiometer Calibration (BORCAL) process (Reda et al. 2008). National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) pyrheliometer comparisons (NPCs) are held annually at the Solar Radiation Research Laboratory (SRRL) in Golden, Colorado. Open to all ACR owners and operators, each NPC provides an opportunity to determine the unique WRR transfer factor (WRR-TF) for each participating pyrheliometer. By adjusting all subsequent pyrheliometer measurements by the appropriate WRR-TF, the solar irradiance data are traceable to the WRR.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages46
StatePublished - 2017

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-1900-70436


  • absolute cavity radiometer
  • ISO-17025
  • pyranometer
  • pyrheliometer
  • solar irradiance
  • WRR


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