Shortwave Radiometer Calibration Methods Comparison and Resulting Solar Irradiance Measurement Differences: A User Perspective

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

1 Scopus Citations


Banks financing solar energy projects require assurance that these systems will produce the energy predicted. Furthermore, utility planners and grid system operators need to understand the impact of the variable solar resource on solar energy conversion system performance. Accurate solar radiation data sets reduce the expense associated with mitigating performance risk and assist in understanding the impacts of solar resource variability. The accuracy of solar radiation measured by radiometers depends on the instrument performance specification, installation method, calibration procedure, measurement conditions, maintenance practices, location, and environmental conditions. This study addresses the effect of different calibration methods provided by radiometric calibration service providers, such as NREL and manufacturers of radiometers, on the resulting calibration responsivity. Some of these radiometers are calibrated indoors and some outdoors. To establish or understand the differences in calibration methodology, we processed and analyzed field-measured data from these radiometers. This study investigates calibration responsivities provided by NREL's broadband outdoor radiometer calibration (BORCAL) and a few prominent manufacturers. The BORCAL method provides the outdoor calibration responsivity of pyranometers and pyrheliometers at 45° solar zenith angle, and as a function of solar zenith angle determined by clear-sky comparisons with reference irradiance. The BORCAL method also employs a thermal offset correction to the calibration responsivity of single-black thermopile detectors used in pyranometers. Indoor calibrations of radiometers by their manufacturers are performed using a stable artificial light source in a side-by-side comparison between the test radiometer under calibration and a reference radiometer of the same type. In both methods, the reference radiometer calibrations are traceable to the World Radiometric Reference (WRR). These different methods of calibration demonstrated +1% to +2% differences in solar irradiance measurement. Analyzing these differences will ultimately help determine the uncertainty of the field radiometer data and guide the development of a consensus standard for calibration. Further advancing procedures for precisely calibrating radiometers to world reference standards that reduce measurement uncertainty will allow more accurate prediction of solar output and improve the bankability of solar projects.

Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages6
StatePublished - 18 Nov 2016
Event43rd IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference, PVSC 2016 - Portland, United States
Duration: 5 Jun 201610 Jun 2016


Conference43rd IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference, PVSC 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 IEEE.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5D00-66480


  • Calibration responsivity
  • Measurement uncertainty
  • Photodiode
  • photovoltaics
  • Pyranometer
  • Pyrheliometers
  • Radiometer calibration


Dive into the research topics of 'Shortwave Radiometer Calibration Methods Comparison and Resulting Solar Irradiance Measurement Differences: A User Perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this