Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sunshine mapping from space means brighter solar energy future

30.06.2005


How sunny is it outside right now – not just locally but all across Europe and Africa? Answering this question is at the heart of many weather-related business activities: solar power and the wider energy sector, architecture and construction, tourism, even health care. Today accurate and continent-wide scale measurements of ground radiances are provided every 15 minutes by ESA’s Meteosat Second Generation satellite.

Integrating this information with the business practices of solar energy managers is the objective of the ENVISOLAR project (Environmental Information Services for Solar Energy Industries), funded by ESA within the framework of the Earth Observation Market Development Programme (EOMD).

Solar energy has switched from a green aspiration to a solid business. The solar market in photovoltaics – the direct conversion of sunlight to electricity – has an annual turnover of 600 million euros in Germany and 1000 million euros in the rest of Europe. The latter figure is predicted to increase to 2500 million euros by this decade’s end. Furthermore, thousands of megawatt of renewable energy potential are also available in Africa, Asia and Central America as shown by the Solar & Wind Energy Resource Assessment (SWERA) project of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).



There are two kinds of solar energy establishments: solar thermal plants which concentrate heat from the Sun, and photovoltaic plants that convert sunlight into electricity.

In both cases precise, long-term irradiance data is needed for choosing plant locations and estimates of likely energy yield for prospective investors. Then once a plant is built, managers need data updated in near real-time to check the facility is working optimally, and energy output tallies with available sunshine. "Today our audits form the basis of huge investments in the range of 50 million euros for single projects," explains Gerd Heilscher from Meteocontrol, a company auditing photovoltaic systems and involved in ENVISOLAR. "Besides the layout, solar radiation is the most important issue. But unfortunately only a few high-quality ground-based measurements are available at this time." Within the wider energy market, such information is also valuable for forecasting electricity load – irradiance is the other major environmental influence on demand besides temperature.

How best to measure sunlight? Ground radiance is quite complex to quantify as it is influenced by much more than simply a site’s distance from the equator. Variations in cloud cover, humidity, aerosols and ozone in the air determine the amount of incoming solar radiation actually reaching the ground. Local topography is also important and there are large regional differences – in Europe the southern side of the Alps receives twice the annual radiance of northern slopes.

Measuring from below using in-situ data is technically demanding, expensive on an ongoing basis and limited in coverage – there are only around 200 solar-energy-measuring stations to cover all of Europe and Africa in the official networks affiliated to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

Measuring from above using satellites provides a wide-area, objective and cost-effective solution. Research by MeteoSwiss has shown that satellites are even more accurate than ground measurements once the distance to the next ground station is greater than about 30 kilometres.

Today, ENVISOLAR partners are developing and marketing a variety of solar services based on satellite radiance data. These services benefit from the latest scientific results and state-of-the-art algorithms developed by a EU Research&Development project called Heliosat-3.

ENVISOLAR services based on these data products comprise solar plant yield estimates, plant fault detection and performance checking, energy forecasting for energy utilities, and time series services including maps and statistics of irradiance, its direct and diffuse components and spectral components such as illumination.

Customers of ENVISOLAR services include SAG Solarstrom AG, a publicly quoted German firm that builds and operates photovoltaic installations, providing entire financial investments in photovoltaics to its customers. "We need solid information for investment decisions, especially with regard to future markets like Spain," said Uwe Ilgeman, CEO of SAG Solarstrom AG. "The sampling and spatial resolution of ground-based data is too coarse – for example in Spain there are only 30 sites available at the moment."

High-resolution radiance data from the Solar Energy Mining (Solemi) service operated by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) - leader of ENVISOLAR - have contributed to the quantification of the renewable energy potential within 14 developing countries, in the framework of the SWERA project of UNEP. Results of SWERA suggest the potential is far greater than has previously been supposed. "These countries need greatly expanded energy services to help them in the fight against poverty and to power sustainable development," said Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP. "SWERA offers them the technical and policy assistance to capture the potential that renewable energy can offer."

A wide range of users besides climate scientists can benefit from EO-based solar services, in particular farmers, architects interested in knowing locally appropriate window sizes, and even PVC manufacturing companies. One of these, Deceuninck, used the ENVISOLAR Solar service (SoDa) to study how the ultraviolet in sunshine degrades PVC building parts, so that their warranties could be tailored to local conditions.

Medical researchers are using sunshine maps to investigate links between sunlight and health. The International Agency of Research on Cancer (IARC), an institute of the World Health Organisation (WHO) is probing the relationship between ultraviolet radiation exposure and skin cancer.

And scientists at the UK’s University of Southampton and the Royal London Hospital have also used the data to study whether lack of vitamin D – supplied through sunlight – in pregnant women contributes to osteoporosis or ’brittle bone syndrome’ in later life.

Another EOMD project called HappySun Mobile is also applying satellite-based sunlight data to public health care. With exposure to sunlight being the leading cause of melanomas and other skin cancers, this one-year project will set up a means of generating automatic warnings about safe sunbathing times based on measured ultraviolet levels, and deliver them to sunbathers via text messaging.

Mariangela D’Acunto | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/esaEO/SEM4Q82DU8E_economy_0.html

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Fraunhofer ISE Supports Market Development of Solar Thermal Power Plants in the MENA Region
21.02.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Solare Energiesysteme ISE

nachricht New tech for commercial Lithium-ion batteries finds they can be charged 5 times fast
20.02.2018 | University of Warwick

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stiffness matters

22.02.2018 | Life Sciences

Magnetic field traces gas and dust swirling around supermassive black hole

22.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

First evidence of surprising ocean warming around Galápagos corals

22.02.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>