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Space shuttle data leads to better model for solar power production in California
Date:11/7/2011

o 30 percent shorter than on flat terrain. A solar power plant in that area would produce 12 percent less energy on those days than if it was located on a plain or other flat landscape. But in summertime, the days are much longer and the sun is brighter, so the total production shortfall would be only 1 to 2 percent over the course of a whole year.

"Solar resource models have become very accurate," said Kleissl. "Now we are refining them down to the last few percentage points."

Bosch, the postdoctoral researcher, used elevation data obtained on a near-global scale by astronauts aboard the space shuttle Endeavour during an 11-day mission in February 2000. The data were later compiled into a high-resolution digital topographic database of most of planet Earth. Bosch and Kleissl focused on the areas of California where most solar power plants are located and where elevation is an issue, namely the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California, including San Diego, Imperial, Riverside, Orange and Los Angeles counties.

One caveat for the method developed by Kleissl and Bosch is that it provides only baseline information in urban areas. Trees, poles and other rooftop structures, such as chimneys, can cause more power losses. In that case, the best method to estimate power shortfalls is to use a fisheye camera to visualize the local horizon, a device that any qualified installer of solar panels would have on hand.
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Contact: Ioana Patringenaru
ipatrin@ucsd.edu
858-822-0899
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert  

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