Assessment of solar radiation resources in Saudi Arabia

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Abstract

Solar radiation resource data are the foundation of information for programs of large-scale deployment of solar energy technologies. While the solar resource in Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula was believed to be significant based on limited past data, understanding the spatial and temporal variability requires significantly more data and analysis in order to optimize planning and siting solar energy power plants. This paper summarizes the analysis of the first year of broadband solar resource measurements from a new monitoring network in Saudi Arabia developed by the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE). The analysis used twelve months (October 2013-September 2014) of data from 30 stations distributed across the country based on one-minute measurements of Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI), Diffuse Horizontal Irradiance (DHI), Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI), and related meteorological parameters. Network design, implementation, and data quality assurance are described to document the network extent and quality. For the 30 stations, the annual average daily GHI ranged from about 5700Wh/m<sup>2</sup> to 6700Wh/m<sup>2</sup> with consistently higher values inland and lower values along the coasts. This indicates that photovoltaic technologies would perform well at any location although extreme high temperatures (over 30°C annual average in some locations) may degrade the performance of some types of photovoltaic technologies. Annual average daily DNI was much more variable across the stations, ranging from about 4400Wh/m<sup>2</sup> to over 7300Wh/m<sup>2</sup> with the highest values and clearest skies in the northwest part of the country. While most regions have sufficient solar resources for concentrating solar technologies, the western inland sites with average daily totals of over 6474Wh/m<sup>2</sup> (average yearly totals of 2400kWh/m<sup>2</sup>/year) are superior to the eastern sites with average daily totals closer to 5510Wh/m<sup>2</sup> (average yearly totals of 2000kWh/m<sup>2</sup>/year). This first year of data represents the beginning of a deeper understanding of solar resource characteristics in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. Although continued measurements are needed to understand the interannual resource variability, the current study should have significant applications for preliminary technology selection, power plant modeling, and resource forecasting.

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Zell, E., Gasim, S., Wilcox, S., Katamoura, S., Stoffel, T., Shibli, H., … Subie, M. A. (2015). Assessment of solar radiation resources in Saudi Arabia. Solar Energy, 119, 422–438. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.solener.2015.06.031

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