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Solar Industry

Common Structure for Archiving & accessing Solar Resource Products & Information / Standardization / Improved Tools


In 2004 the solar industry, under the International Energy Agency (IEA), established a Solar Resource KM Taskforce to discuss the sector’s needs and to develop a work-plan to address those needs. The participant countries included: Canada, EU, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, USA. The industry realized that it needed new tools which were not available in the marketplace, that international R&D collaboration was needed to speed up the development of the sector, a need to make more effective use of synergies within the renewables sector, a need to develop solar resource tools and databases and to be able to offer a wider range of products to more customers. Specific needs identified:

  • More site and time specific information
  • Improved accuracy through commonly acknowledged validation and standardized products
  • Customized easy to access products shaped towards user needs
  • Global geographic information
  • Improved service availability and reliability
  • Improved spatial and temporal coverage and higher accuracy

The sector developed the collaborative strategy under the aegis of the IEA. The IEA does not supply funds but offers organizational space for coordinating further R&D work and receiving direct feedback from users and can provide a web-portal under the internationally accepted IES logo to provide guided access to distribute solar resource products.

The target audience for the products and services emerging from work of the taskforce are the various users of solar energy applications and other stakeholders, all represented within the IEA. Target audience includes:

  • Industry: construction, PV, CSP, and SMEs involved in planning and monitoring of solar systems
  • Solar heating and cooling
  • Concentrating solar power
  • Future solar markets – solar process heat and chemical products and water desalination and detoxification
  • Finance and insurance sector – bilateral banks, donors, venture capital, fund managers and re-insurance companies
  • Electricity sector – network and retail utilities, rural authorities, independent power producers
  • Governments – national, regional, local and regulatory agencies
  • NGOs and other promoters of solar energy
  • Research organizations

Detailed Description of the Tool/Practice

The vision of the KM initiative is: “The IEA Task “Solar Resource KM” provides the solar energy industry, the electricity sector, governments, and renewable energy organizations and institutions with the most suitable and accurate information of the solar radiation field at the earth’s surface from the precise long –term satellite data sets to up to date products and towards forecasts and scenarios on to future availability of solar resources in a changing climate (slide 27 Myers)

The three main objectives of the KM project are:

  • To provide further standardization and benchmarking of international solar resource data sets to ensure worldwide inter comparability and acceptance.
  • To provide improved data reliability, availability and accessibility in formats that address specific user needs, and
  • To develop methods that improve the quality and the spatial and temporal coverage, with customized solar resource products, including reliable solar radiation forecasts.

Achieving the objectives will reduce the costs of planning and deploying solar energy systems, improving efficiency of solar energy systems through more accurate and complete solar resource information, and increasing the value of solar energy produced by the systems.

The KM activities identified for the 5 year work program (2005-2010) were independent from each other, were comprehensive and were charged with leading to tangible deliverables and products. Solar resource information is defined as “all data describing site and time specific physical parameters of solar radiation at the Earth’s surface needed for the design and operation of solar energy systems”. (Presentation by R. Myer, Institute for Atmospheric Physics, EC Joint research Centre Symposium, Italy, Dec 2004 slide 26). Relevant solar applications include: building and cooling (SHC); photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power systems (CSP) for producing electricity and process heat. KM is being used to flow information to serve the evolving applications of these technologies, including their role in distributed energy networks.

The KM activities were grouped into three sub-tasks:

  • Standard qualification for solar resource products – setting standard for solar resource products, validation in accordance with worldwide comparability and acceptance. The subtasks involved:
    • Select / qualify measurement data set
    • Measures for model quality for product validation
    • Method for establishing benchmarking of products
    • Application of benchmarking procedures
  • Development of a common structure for archiving, processing and accessing solar resource information (e.g. through a single portal). The subtasks involved:
    • Identifying commonly used software by end users
    • Developing data exchange protocols
    • Developing a network of resource providers
    • Evaluating legal aspects
    • Automatic access by commercial applications
  • Improved techniques for solar resource characterization and forecasting to enhance quality and develop new and more versatile products. The activities entailed the development of eight solar industry products (radiation products, satellite models, micro sitting) and analytical and forecasting tools.


The following approach is being implemented:

  • Defining the products and services of the key industry stakeholders
  • Bringing together the leading experts from all disciplines needed to best solve the questions
  • Providing globally comparable products based on the most suitable data and best methods from around the world
  • International cooperation is a “must”


The benefits of developing and making available solar resource information to industry players are many, including:

  • Knowledge on solar energy potential on a regional, national and global scale
  • Economic assessment of project feasibility for calculating solar energy yields – i.e. improved information on where systems become economically viable.
  • Site specific optimization of solar systems
  • Optimizing operations
  • Distributed power generation management
  • Market development scenarios
  • Knowledge of solar resource and real weather data critical for the development of solar energy technologies
  • Provide assistance for joint implementation projects that contribute to studies on energy and climate.
  • Improved knowledge will help to increase the usage of solar energy in the future since use is still marginal.

Lessons Learned to Date

2008 Highlights have been reported (Highlights Report SHC Task36 Solar Resource KM). Task 36 is focusing on development of products that will reduce risks in project implementation, increase access to key data products and provide guidance on the reliability of various solar data sets.

  • Development and testing of a variety of solar resource forecasting methods. This is integral to the cost effective and successful operation of large scale grid-tied solar energy systems.
  • Utilities and system operators can use the forecasts to predict the approximate amount of energy they can rely upon over the next several hours to the next 3 days.
  • Initial studies have examined 60 hour ahead hourly forecasts from publicly available forecasting sources. The forecasts were compared against measurement at three high quality solar monitoring sites in the US.
  • By 2010 a Best Practices Guide will be published by the Taskforce to capture the key findings of the five year program.

Examples of where the tool is being used

The tools are useful for utilities sector, system operators, project planners and developers, financial institutions and many other stakeholders in the solar energy business.


Project Leader: David Renne, National Renewable Energy laboratory, US.

The Role of the new IEA Task on Solar resources Knowledge Management for Satisfying Future Data Needs, presented by Richard Meyer (Institute for Atmospheric Physics), at the JRC-EC / EdM workshop on Solar resources from the Local level to the Global Scale in Support of the Resources Management of Renewable Electricity Generation, Dec 6-7, 2004, Ispra, Italy. Plus two papers on the KM project from the IEA website – 2008 Highlights Task 36 / other reports are not titled or authored)