Just before dawn at remote sites across Australia, 16 Bureau of Meteorology observers wipe the night dew from their station instruments and run a quick system check to start another day of accurate solar measurements.
Not long after, the other members of the solar team arrive in the Bureau’s Melbourne office to monitor each site’s activity log, and ensure that the data coming through from the ground observation network are of a high enough standard to be made available for public use.
Using this approach, the Bureau of Meteorology has for 20 years provided world-class one minute solar data statistics through the World Meteorological Organization’s Global Climate Observing System, and half-hourly data upon request to the public.
In 2011, Renewable Energy Product Development Manager Ian Muirhead and his team saw an opportunity to improve public access to a combined total of 240 years of one minute solar statistical data by creating an online delivery system. This would add to already publicly available half-hourly data from surface stations and the hourly data derived from satellite observations.Article continues below…
“The solar data provided by the Bureau are recognised as some of the best in the world, however, it relies on a complex process to make it available to the public,” Mr Muirhead says.
“After discussions with the Australian Solar Institute (ASI) and representatives from the sector, we saw that in the future the need for one minute solar data was going to increase and as such we needed to develop a way to make it more readily available.”
ASI funds helped the Bureau to develop an online product that allows people to download a range of information previously collected from 27 ground observation sites across Australia for free, or on a cost recovery basis for large data sets.
“It is the first time that data of this resolution has been made available widely in Australia,” Mr Muirhead says.
The availability of one minute solar data can be used to help project developers better understand the solar resource and the likely power plant output at prospective sites, helping them to optimise plant design and ultimately secure financing.
It will work alongside other ASI-supported projects that aim to increase the uptake of solar, such as overcoming solar intermittency issues and developing a world-class solar forecasting system.
Mr Muirhead says that since the product’s launch in August 2012, he has received positive feedback from solar experts in the United States and Australia, with the general consensus being that it would be a valuable resource to the solar energy research and development community overall, and will be especially helpful for Australia’s solar energy programs.