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On the efficiency of solar energy in the tropics

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Wednesday, 26 January 2011
On the efficiency of solar energy in the tropics
Paul Ruscher, Florida State Univ., Tallahassee, FL

Poster PDF (3.0 MB)

There are numerous meteorological factors that limit the efficiency of solar energy systems in the tropics. Depletion of available solar energy at the surface by increased water vapor, cloudiness, temperature of the solar panel system, pollution, are sometimes overlooked, because engineering specifications for design are often based upon midlatitude continental air masses. The typical tropical atmospheric reduction factors are reviewed in this paper, using a state-of-the-art solar energy model. In addition, meteorological variability can be quite extreme in the tropics and many engineering studies on feasibility of renewable energy sources in general are often based upon “typical” year criteria, rather than longer term climatologies. It is suggested that climatological data be utilized to more accurately portray the variability of output to be expected at a typical installation. Many of these variables are already widely available from a combination of surface and upper air meteorological stations, as well as remote sensing data from satellites. We will demonstrate the sources for these data as well as strategies for teaching about solar energy efficiency using routine observations from school-based weather stations.