Insolation is a measure of
solar radiationenergy received on a given surface area in a given time. It is commonly expressed as average irradiancein watts per square meter (W/m²) or kilowatt-hours per square meter per day (kW·h/(m²·day)) (or hours/day). In the case of photovoltaicsit is commonly measured as kWh/kWp•y (kilowatt hours per year per kilowatt peak rating).
The given surface may be a planet, or a terrestrial object inside the atmosphere of a planet, or any object exposed to solar rays outside of an atmosphere, including
spacecraft. Some of the solar radiation will be absorbed, causing radiant heating of the object, and the remainder will be reflected. The proportion of radiation reflected or absorbed depends on the object's reflectivityor albedo, respectively.
The insolation into a surface is largest when the surface directly faces the Sun. As the angle increases between the direction normal to the surface and the direction of the rays of sunlight, the insolation is reduced in proportion to the
cosineof the angle. This is known in optics as " Lambert's cosine law". This 'projection effect' is the main reason why the polar regions are much colder than equatorial regions on Earth. On an annual average the poles receive less insolation than does the equator, because at the poles the Earth's surface is angled away from the Sun.
Direct insolationis the solar irradiancemeasured at a given location on Earth with a surface element perpendicular to the Sun's rays, excluding diffuse insolation(the solar radiation that is scattered or reflected by atmospheric components in the sky). Direct insolation is equal to the solar constantminus the atmospheric losses due to absorption and scattering. While the solar constant varies with the Earth-Sun distance and solar cycles, the losses depend on the time of day (length of light's path through the atmosphere depending on the Solar elevation angle), cloud cover, moisturecontent, and other impurities.
Over the course of a year the average solar radiation arriving at the top of the Earth's atmosphere is roughly 1366 cite web
title=Construction of a Composite Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) Time Series from 1978 to present
accessdate=October 5 | title="Figure 4 & figure 5"
watts per square meter (see solar constant). The radiant power is distributed across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, although most of the power is in the visible lightportion of the spectrum. The Sun's rays are attenuated as they pass though the atmosphere, thus reducing the insolation at the Earth's surface to approximately 1000 watts per square meter for a surface perpendicular to the Sun's rays at sea level on a clear day.
The actual figure varies with the Sun angle at different times of year, according to the distance the
sunlighttravels through the air, and depending on the extent of atmospheric haze and cloud cover. Ignoring clouds, the average insolation for the Earth is approximately 250 watts per square meter (6 (kW·h/m²)/day), taking into account the lower radiation intensity in early morning and evening, and its near-absence at night.
The insolation of the sun can also be expressed in Suns, where one Sun equals 1000 W/m² at the point of arrival, with kWh/m² displayed as hours/day. [ [http://www.solar4power.com/solar-power-insolation-window.html Solar Insolation for U.S. Major Cities] retrieved 8 October 2008] This makes calculating the output of a panel at a particular location a matter of multiplying the rating of the panel times the expected number of hours/day of sun (at 1000 W/m²). One Sun is a unit of power flux, not a standard value for actual insolation. Sometimes this unit is referred to as a Sol, not to be confused with a sol, meaning one solar day on, for example, a different planet, such as Mars.Fact|date=September 2007
spacecraftdesign and planetology, it is the primary variable affecting equilibrium temperatureand global climate.
In construction, insolation is an important consideration when designing a building for a particular climate. It is one of the most important climate variables for human comfort and building energy efficiency. [cite web
last = Nall
first = D. H.
title = Looking across the water: Climate-adaptive buildings in the United States & Europe
journal = "The Construction Specifier"
volume = 57
issue = 2004-11
pages = pp 50-56
url = http://www.flackandkurtz.com/Articles/Looking%20Across%20the%20Water.pdf ]
The projection effect can be used in
architectureto design buildings that are cool in summer and warm in winter, by providing large vertical windows on the equator-facing side of the building (the south face in the northern hemisphere, or the north face in the southern hemisphere): this maximizes insolation in the winter months when the Sun is low in the sky, and minimizes it in the summer when the noonday Sun is high in the sky. (The Sun's north/south path through the sky spans 47 degrees through the year).
Insolation figures are used as an input to worksheets to size solar power systems for the location where they will be installed. [cite web
title = Determining your solar power requirements and planning the number of components.
url = http://www.solar4power.com/solar-power-sizing.html ] The figures can be obtained from an insolation map or by city or region from insolation tables that were generated with historical data over the last 30-50 years. Photovoltaic panels are rated under standard conditions to determine the Wp rating (watts peak), [ [http://www.iea-pvps.org/pv/glossary.htm#STC Glossary, Standard test conditions] ] which can then be used with the insolation of a region to determine the expected output, along with other factors such as tilt, tracking and shading (which can be included to create the installed Wp rating). [ [http://www.glrea.org/articles/howDoSolarPanelsWork.html How Do Solar Panels Work?] ] Insolation values range from 800 to 950 in
Norwayto 2,200-2,400 kWh/kWp•y in Thailandand Israel.
In the fields of
civil engineeringand hydrology, numerical models of snowmelt runoff use observations of insolation. This permits estimation of the rate at which water is released from a melting snowpack. Field measurement is accomplished using a pyranometer.
* [http://www.nsdl.arm.gov/Library/glossary.shtml#insolation National Science Digital Library - Insolation]
* [http://www.sfog.us/solar/sfsolar.htm San Francisco Solar Map]
* [http://sunbird.jrc.it/pvgis/apps/pvest.php Insolation map of Europe and Africa]
* [http://www.bom.gov.au/sat/solrad.shtml Yesterday‘s Australian Solar Radiation Map]
* [http://www.ecmwf.int/research/era/ERA-40_Atlas/docs/section_B/parameter_nsfosrpd.html Net surface fluxes of solar radiation] including interannual variability
* [http://oceanworld.tamu.edu/resources/ocng_textbook/chapter05/chapter05_06.htm Net surface solar radiation]
* [http://www.soda-is.com/eng/map/ Maps of Solar Radiation]
* [http://www.energymatters.com.au/climate-data/ Solar Radiation using Google Maps]
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