Solar Resource Calibration, Measurement, and Dissemination: Final Report FY 2016-FY 2018

Aron Habte, Manajit Sengupta, Yu Xie, Anthony Lopez, Mark Kutchenreiter, Afshin Andreas, Ibrahim Reda, Galen Maclaurin, Michael Foster, Christian Gueymard

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The Solar Resource Calibration, Measurement, and Dissemination project supports the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) initiative to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by improving the tools and methods to measure and model solar radiation and therefore reduce uncertainty in predicting solar output and improve the bankability of solar projects. This project has three tasks that conduct research on advancing solar resource measurements and modeling: Task 1: Applied solar Radiation Measurements. Task 2: National Solar Radiation Data Base (NSRDB). Task 3: Knowledge Sharing. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL's) Solar Radiation Research Laboratory (SRRL) activities ensure traceable solar measurements throughout the United States that are essential for project feasibility, due diligence, financing, and plant operations. The SRRL houses NREL's Baseline Measurement System (BMS), which provides a platform for improving the accuracy of solar measurements through research to improve the calibration and characterization of instruments and enable the development of new measurement technology and standards. The platform contains a variety of instruments measuring solar radiation and other meteorological parameters. Following best practices, BMS instruments are calibrated to ensure traceability to the World Radiometric Reference in compliance with ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation requirements. The BMS data sets are quality-controlled and made publicly available through the Measurement and Instrumentation Data Center website. The NSRDB is the most accessed public database of solar irradiance and associated weather parameters for use in energy modeling. It supports SETO's goals of reducing barriers to high penetrations of solar technologies by providing easy access to high-quality, foundational data essential for innovative product development and downstream modeling through the NSRDB website. Data are currently available for the contiguous United States and beyond for 20 years covering 1998-2017. The Physical Solar Model (PSM) that underpins the current NSRDB data sets is a unique physics-based model that has been developed at NREL and has opened the door to the use of next-generation satellite data sets for solar resource assessment and forecasting. Through the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) International and other international standards organizations, NREL continues to provide leadership in the development of standards that are relevant to the measurement and modeling of solar radiation for solar energy applications. Standards developed cover the calibration method of pyrheliometers (direct normal irradiance measurements), pyranometers (global horizontal irradiance measurements), spectroradiometers, ultraviolet radiometers, correct field deployment of these instruments, spectral distribution reference tables for photovoltaic modeling, and transfer of indoor calibrations. Further, NREL leads the International Energy Agency (IEA) Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme Task 16: Subtask 1, which focuses on the evaluation of current and emerging resource assessment methodologies. NREL and the IEA updated the Best Practices Handbook for the Collection and Use of Solar Resource Data for Solar Energy Applications, which is widely used by the solar industry.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages66
StatePublished - 2019

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5D00-73667


  • calibration
  • dissemination
  • measurement
  • National Solar Radiation Database
  • solar
  • Solar Radiation Research Laboratory
  • SRRL


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