25 Mar The big picture

The 5th assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change published in 2013 concluded that the evidence for climate change is now incontrovertible and that a large part of this ongoing change is attributable to human activities, particularly the increased release of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere. Several actions point to the fact that a more climate-resilient economy and society must be built in each country, such as measures aimed at reducing fuel consumption for energy production, emphasis on energy efficiency and conservation as well as on power generation from renewable sources such as the Sun. By 2050, the EU Energy Policy Plan aims to limit climate change by capping the global temperature rise to no more than 2°C and envisages a reduction of GHG emissions in the EU by 80 – 95%. In order to achieve this goal, the EU has laid out specific technology-roadmaps that will lead to the integration of low carbon energy technologies, and in particular the deployment of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants and Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) installations in the energy economy.

“For accurate surface solar power forecasts we need to unravel the complexity of the atmosphere”

A major challenge is that forecasting the available insolation for solar power is not easily predictable in advance since it depends strongly on localized site-specific and complex weather conditions. For accurate surface solar power forecasts, we need to unravel the complexity of the atmosphere. While utilities may invest time to develop accurate prediction models for large-scale centralized solar farms that produce multiple sources of megawatt power, manually developing specialized models that predict the power output from distributed or de-centralized generation at many small-scale facilities located at smart homes and buildings throughout the grid, is not yet feasible. Cloud cover, aerosol content, and the presence of atmospheric gases like water vapour in the troposphere and ozone in the stratosphere, can all reduce available direct insolation to a tiny fraction at the ground level. Furthermore, because cloud cover has the strongest effect on ground insolation, statistical methods have to include microscale (< 2 km) or mesoscale (2–20 km) weather systems in order to succeed in forecasting potential solar power. Our research effort has been geared toward providing a solution to this problem by developing a accurate and fast system for the calculation of surface solar radiation spectra at high resolution and frequency using geostationary satellite data where cloud and aerosol effects are implicit. Our state-of-the-art methodology enables calculation of accurate solar power time series in for real-time (15-min) for energy yields expected during the operation of CSP plants and CPV installations of large area and orientation.

 “The UV spectrum is the key to new organism-centred emerging technologies for exploiting  solar energy”

The solar radiation spectrum spans the ultraviolet (UV), visible and infra-red (IR) wavelengths in the range 285-2600nm. In particular, UV radiation affects nearly all living organisms and we have to live with both its harmful and helpful effects. At UV-Β and UV-A wavelengths, it plays an essential role in the formation of Vitamin D in our skin. At the same time it can also cause sunburn or damage cataracts in our eyes. At even shorter UV wavelengths (UV-C), UV can cause DNA damage and mutations in cells or even suppress certain activities of the immune system of humans and organisms in the environmnt. As such, UV radiation has important impacts on health and habitat. By producing high resolution spectra in each pixel “observed” from space, we use spectral window functions to produce a range of new solar energy impact measures and products important to health and environment. The UV spectrum is the key to new organism-centred emerging technologies for exploiting  solar energy.

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