Environmental Information Services for Solar Energy Industries





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ENVISOLAR aims at the increased use of satellite based solar radiation information for solar energy industries.

A more detailed description of ENVISOLAR objectives can be found in a paper prepared for the workshop

"Solar Resource from the Local Level to Global Scale in Support of the Resource Management of Renewable Electricity Generation"
held at the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC), Ispra, Italy on 6-7 December 2004.


The solar market has a volume of about 600 million EURO/year in Germany and about 100 million EURO/year in the rest of the EU. Expected market volumes in 2010 are 1100 million EURO and 2500 million EURO, respectively. That means the solar energy sector is turning from an idealistically driven to a financially driven market. Therefore, investment assurance is necessary. Services which can provide the required support are needed in two phases: 
    • Investment decisions
    • Plant management

    Another emerging market that promises good benefits is forecasting the electricity load and production for electric utilities. Scheduling of large power plants needs a precise knowledge of the load. Besides temperature, irradiance is the major environmental influence on the electricity demand. Because of liberalised markets and higher penetration a professional load forecast is necessary to achieve good prices in energy spot markets. 

    Basic information for the energy market segments outlined above is solar radiation. In detail global, diffuse and direct irradiance are needed. 

The following services providing solar radiation information will be improved through the ENVISOLAR project:

Services for Investment Decision

    • Site analysis and optimisation which allows finding the best site for a planned power plant.
    • “Premium” site audit: This will give investors a good basis for their investment decision. Premium site audits are done mainly for large solar plants.
    • Web service based yield estimation: A cost effective way to estimate the expected yield for smaller plants.

    Service examples are available in the following fact sheets:

    To optimise the financial yield, site assessment is necessary for the investor. This is provided by GIS (Geographical Information System) based services. These services also supply information about distances to feed-in points, irradiance, and so on. By such means it is possible to find the optimal location for solar power plants. With increasing plant size and therefore higher investments, the investors need better site optimisation.

    On the other hand the financing of solar power plants is based largely on loans. Therefore financial institutes and  insurers expect precise audits before they give their approval for a loan to an investor. For large plants at least two site audits are required: One or two have to be provided by the investor and one is ordered by the bank itself to confirm the basic figures for the investment decision.

    Also for the market of small solar energy systems an estimation of the expected yield is required by the private investor to minimise the risk of loosing money and to compare the offers of different suppliers. As he does not pay for this service at this stage of the selling process, the yield estimation has to be very cost effective. Also the number of offers is high and therefore access to this kind of yield estimation has to be easy and fast.

Services for Plant Management 

    • Fault detection: Advanced fault detection and performance control allow reliable alarms and assure the validity of the investment.
    • Performance check for smaller plants allows to give first estimates of performance and failures

    Service examples are available in the following fact sheets (pdf format):

    To assure good benefit from the installed solar energy systems, plant monitoring must be realised for every plant. To meet the different demands, the scale of service is different. Smaller solar energy systems need low cost monitoring ("performance check"), large solar energy systems need detailed monitoring with automatic fault detection routines. Both services aim at a reduction of down time and fast (“automated”) detection of faults.

Services for Utilities
    • Solar energy forecasting for electric utilities

    Service examples are available in the following fact sheet:

    • Weather Portal
    • Solar energy production forecasts
    • SolarSAT Gridmanager

    Currently, load forecasting becomes an increasingly important issue for electric utilities. More sophisticated methodologies, which take into account several meteorological quantities including solar irradiance, are introduced. This has to guarantee that at any time utilities provide exactly the power that is needed by their customers, otherwise major grid failures as recently experienced in the USA may result. With a higher penetration of the grid by renewable energies also the production becomes strongly weather dependent. Today wind power prediction is already an urgently needed service in some ESA countries. In the near future also a precise prediction of solar electricity production will become necessary.

Time-Series Services for Science and Consulting

    • Time series, maps and statistics of irradiance, direct and diffuse components and spectral components such as illumination will be provided to the user. 

    Service examples are available in the following fact sheet:

    Time series are used to calculate the yield of solar thermal and photovoltaic power plants. Furthermore they can be used to estimate light and heat demand within buildings for architectural purposes. Time series are a semi-finished product on which all other products are built but there is also a market for raw time series. In general, planners, architects and scientists are the key customers for this sector.

Last update: 30 May 2007