Characterizing Variability of Solar Irradiance in San Antonio, Texas Using Satellite Observations of Cloudiness
Mestas-Nuñez, Alberto M.
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Since the main attenuation of solar irradiance reaching the earth’s surface is due to clouds, it has been hypothesized that global horizontal irradiance attenuation and its temporal variability at a given location could be characterized simply by cloud properties at that location. This hypothesis is tested using global horizontal irradiance measurements at two stations in San Antonio, Texas, and satellite estimates of cloud types and cloud layers from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) Surface and Insolation Product. A modified version of an existing solar attenuation variability index, albeit having a better physical foundation, is used. The analysis is conducted for different cloud conditions and solar elevations. It is found that under cloudy-sky conditions, there is less attenuation under water clouds than those under opaque ice clouds (optically thick ice clouds) and multilayered clouds. For cloud layers, less attenuation was found for the low/mid layers than for the high layer. Cloud enhancement occurs more frequently for water clouds and less frequently for mixed phase and cirrus clouds and it occurs with similar frequency at all three levels. The temporal variability of solar attenuation is found to decrease with an increasing temporal sampling interval and to be largest for water clouds and smallest for multilayered and partly cloudy conditions. This work presents a first step towards estimating solar energy potential in the San Antonio area indirectly using available estimates of cloudiness from GOES satellites.