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Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Mapping the Sun

As the use of solar power grows in California, it becomes more important to know exactly how much radiation and energy is generated throughout the state. That’s the basis behind an improved California solar map created by UC San Diego environmental engineering professor Jan Kleissl and his Ph.D. student, Anders Nottrott.

The map, which can be viewed via Google Earth for free, allows homeowners, photovoltaic installers and utilities to better predict how much power their solar systems will generate.

The original data for the state’s solar map came from the National Solar Radiation Database and was modeled from geo- stationary satellites.  Instead of using satellite data, the UCSD engineers used histories of measured ground data provided by ground stations through the California Department of Water Resource System to evaluate and improve the accuracy of the original satellite dataset.

 “Satellites are not as accurate because they can only see what the clouds reflect,” Kleissl says. “What we found through the use of the ground stations is that the summer morning clouds on the whole California coastline are thicker than observed by the satellite. The previous map predicted too much radiation during the summer months along the California coast.”

—Andrea Siedsma