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International Journal of Photoenergy
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 210159, 11 pages
Research Article

Mapping Global Solar Radiation from Long-Term Satellite Data in the Tropics Using an Improved Model

Solar Energy Research Laboratory, Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, Silpakorn University, Nakhon Pathom 73000, Thailand

Received 3 January 2013; Revised 28 February 2013; Accepted 1 March 2013

Academic Editor: Manuel Antón

Copyright © 2013 S. Janjai et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This paper presents an improved model and its application for mapping global solar radiation from satellite data in the tropics. The model provides a more complete description of the absorption and scattering of solar radiation in the earth-atmosphere system as compared to the earlier models. The study is conducted in the tropical environment of Thailand. Digital data from the visible channel of GMS4, GMS5, GOES9, and MTSAT-1R satellites collected during a 15-year period (1995–2009) are used as a main input to the model. Satellite gray levels are converted into earth-atmospheric reflectivity and used to estimate the cloud effect. The absorption of solar radiation due to water vapour is computed from precipitable water derived from ambient temperature and relative humidity. The total ozone column data from TOMS/EP and OMI/AURA satellites are used to compute solar radiation absorption by ozone. The depletion of solar radiation due to aerosol is estimated from visibility data. In order to test its performance, the model is employed to calculate monthly average daily global solar radiation at 36 solar monitoring stations across the country. It is found that solar radiation calculated from the model and that obtained from the measurement are in good agreement, with a root mean square difference of 5.3% and a mean bias difference of 0.3%. The model is used to calculate the monthly average daily global solar radiation over the entire country, and results are displayed as monthly and yearly maps. These maps reveal that the geographical distribution of solar radiation in Thailand is strongly influenced by the tropical monsoons and local geographical features.