skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: The National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB)


This presentation provides a high-level overview of the National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB), including sensing, measurement and forecasting, and discusses observations that are needed for research and product development.

; ; ; ; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Solar Energy Technologies Office (EE-4S)
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Resource Relation:
Conference: Presented at the American Meteorological Society (AMS) 97th Annual Meeting, 22-26 January 2017, Seattle, Washington
Country of Publication:
United States
14 SOLAR ENERGY; solar resource; sensing; measurement; forecasting

Citation Formats

Sengupta, Manajit, Habte, Aron, Lopez, Anthony, Xie, Yu, Molling, Christine, and Gueymard, Christian. The National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB). United States: N. p., 2017. Web.
Sengupta, Manajit, Habte, Aron, Lopez, Anthony, Xie, Yu, Molling, Christine, & Gueymard, Christian. The National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB). United States.
Sengupta, Manajit, Habte, Aron, Lopez, Anthony, Xie, Yu, Molling, Christine, and Gueymard, Christian. Mon . "The National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB)". United States. doi:.
title = {The National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB)},
author = {Sengupta, Manajit and Habte, Aron and Lopez, Anthony and Xie, Yu and Molling, Christine and Gueymard, Christian},
abstractNote = {This presentation provides a high-level overview of the National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB), including sensing, measurement and forecasting, and discusses observations that are needed for research and product development.},
doi = {},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Mon Mar 13 00:00:00 EDT 2017},
month = {Mon Mar 13 00:00:00 EDT 2017}

Other availability
Please see Document Availability for additional information on obtaining the full-text document. Library patrons may search WorldCat to identify libraries that hold this conference proceeding.

Save / Share:
  • No abstract prepared.
  • Publicly accessible, high-quality, long-term, satellite-based solar resource data is foundational and critical to solar technologies to quantify system output predictions and deploy solar energy technologies in grid-tied systems. Solar radiation models have been in development for more than three decades. For many years, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) developed and/or updated such models through the National Solar Radiation Data Base (NSRDB). There are two widely used approaches to derive solar resource data from models: (a) an empirical approach that relates ground-based observations to satellite measurements and (b) a physics-based approach that considers the radiation received at the satellite andmore » creates retrievals to estimate clouds and surface radiation. Although empirical methods have been traditionally used for computing surface radiation, the advent of faster computing has made operational physical models viable. The Global Solar Insolation Project (GSIP) is an operational physical model from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that computes global horizontal irradiance (GHI) using the visible and infrared channel measurements from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) system. GSIP uses a two-stage scheme that first retrieves cloud properties and then uses those properties in the Satellite Algorithm for Surface Radiation Budget (SASRAB) model to calculate surface radiation. NREL, the University of Wisconsin, and NOAA have recently collaborated to adapt GSIP to create a high temporal and spatial resolution data set. The product initially generates the cloud properties using the AVHRR Pathfinder Atmospheres-Extended (PATMOS-x) algorithms [3], whereas the GHI is calculated using SASRAB. Then NREL implements accurate and high-resolution input parameters such as aerosol optical depth (AOD) and precipitable water vapor (PWV) to compute direct normal irradiance (DNI) using the DISC model. The AOD and PWV, temperature, and pressure data are also combined with the MMAC model to simulate solar radiation under clear-sky conditions. The current NSRDB update is based on a 4-km x 4-km resolution at a 30-minute time interval, which has a higher temporal and spatial resolution. This paper demonstrates the evaluation of the data set using ground-measured data and detailed evaluation statistics. The result of the comparison shows a good correlation to the NSRDB data set. Further, an outline of the new version of the NSRDB and future plans for enhancement and improvement are provided.« less
  • This poster presents a high-level overview of the National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB). The NSRDB uses the physics-based model (PSM), which was developed using: adapted PATMOS-X model for cloud identification and properties, REST-2 model for clear-sky conditions, and NREL's Fast All-sky Radiation Model for Solar Applications (FARMS) for cloudy-sky Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI) solar irradiance calculations.
  • It is essential to apply a traceable and standard approach to determine the uncertainty of solar resource data. Solar resource data are used for all phases of solar energy conversion projects, from the conceptual phase to routine solar power plant operation, and to determine performance guarantees of solar energy conversion systems. These guarantees are based on the available solar resource derived from a measurement station or modeled data set such as the National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB). Therefore, quantifying the uncertainty of these data sets provides confidence to financiers, developers, and site operators of solar energy conversion systems and ultimatelymore » reduces deployment costs. In this study, we implemented the Guide to the Expression of Uncertainty in Measurement (GUM) 1 to quantify the overall uncertainty of the NSRDB data. First, we start with quantifying measurement uncertainty, then we determine each uncertainty statistic of the NSRDB data, and we combine them using the root-sum-of-the-squares method. The statistics were derived by comparing the NSRDB data to the seven measurement stations from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Surface Radiation Budget Network, National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Solar Radiation Research Laboratory, and the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement program's Southern Great Plains Central Facility, in Billings, Oklahoma. The evaluation was conducted for hourly values, daily totals, monthly mean daily totals, and annual mean monthly mean daily totals. Varying time averages assist to capture the temporal uncertainty of the specific modeled solar resource data required for each phase of a solar energy project; some phases require higher temporal resolution than others. Overall, by including the uncertainty of measurements of solar radiation made at ground stations, bias, and root mean square error, the NSRDB data demonstrated expanded uncertainty of 17 percent - 29 percent on hourly and an approximate 5 percent - 8 percent annual bases.« less
  • This paper validates the performance of the physics-based Physical Solar Model (PSM) data set in the National Solar Radiation Data Base (NSRDB) to quantify the accuracy of the magnitude and the spatial and temporal variability of the solar radiation data. Achieving higher penetrations of solar energy on the electric grid and reducing integration costs requires accurate knowledge of the available solar resource. Understanding the impacts of clouds and other meteorological constituents on the solar resource and quantifying intra-/inter-hour, seasonal, and interannual variability are essential for accurately designing utility-scale solar energy projects. Solar resource information can be obtained from ground-based measurementmore » stations and/or from modeled data sets. The availability of measurements is scarce, both temporally and spatially, because it is expensive to maintain a high-density solar radiation measurement network that collects good quality data for long periods of time. On the other hand, high temporal and spatial resolution gridded satellite data can be used to estimate surface radiation for long periods of time and is extremely useful for solar energy development. Because of the advantages of satellite-based solar resource assessment, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed the PSM. The PSM produced gridded solar irradiance -- global horizontal irradiance (GHI), direct normal irradiance (DNI), and diffuse horizontal irradiance -- for the NSRDB at a 4-km by 4-km spatial resolution and half-hourly temporal resolution covering the 18 years from 1998-2015. The NSRDB also contains additional ancillary meteorological data sets, such as temperature, relative humidity, surface pressure, dew point, and wind speed. Details of the model and data are available at The results described in this paper show that the hourly-averaged satellite-derived data have a systematic (bias) error of approximately +5% for GHI and less than +10% for DNI; however, the scatter (root mean square error [RMSE]) difference is higher for the hourly averages.« less