Solar Position Algorithm for Solar Radiation Applications

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There have been many published articles describing solar position algorithms for solar radiation applications. The best uncertainty achieved in most of these articles is greater than ±0.01° in calculating the solar zenith and azimuth angles. For some, the algorithm is valid for a limited number of years varying from 15 years to a hundred years. This report is a step by step procedure for implementing an algorithm to calculate the solar zenith and azimuth angles in the period from the year -2000 to 6000, with uncertainties of ±0.0003°. The algorithm is described in a book written by Jean Meeus in 1998. This report is written in a step by step format to simplify the complicated steps described in the book, with a focus on the sun instead of the planets and stars in general. It also introduces some changes to accommodate for solar radiation applications. The changes include changing the direction of measuring azimuth angles to be measured from north and eastward instead of being measured from south and eastward, and the direction of measuring the observer's geographical longitude to be measured as positive eastward from Greenwich meridian instead of negative. This report also includes the calculation of incidence angle for a surface that is tilted to any horizontal and vertical angle, as described by Iqbals in 1983.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)577-589
Number of pages13
JournalSolar Energy
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2004

Bibliographical note

Corrigendum published 2007 Solar Energy, Vol. 81(6): p. 838.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-560-35518


  • Global solar irradiance
  • Solar azimuth angle
  • Solar zenith angle
  • Universal time
  • VSOP87 theory
  • ΔUT1


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