High-resolution assessment of solar energy resources over the Arabian Peninsula

by H. P. Dasari, S. Desamsetti, S. Langodan, R. Attada, R. Kunchala, Y. Viswanadhapalli, O. Knio, I. Hoteit
Article Year: 2019 DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2019.04.105


This study presents a high-resolution spatial and temporal assessment of the solar energy resources over the Arabian Peninsula (AP) from 38 years (1980–2017) reanalysis data generated using an assimilative Weather Research and Forecasting Solar model. The simulations are performed based on two, two-way nested domains with 15 km and 5 km resolutions using the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts as initial and boundary conditions and assimilating most of available observations in the region. Simulated solar energy resources, such as the Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI), Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI), and the Diffusive Horizontal Irradiance (DHI), are first validated with daily observations collected at 46 in-situ radiometer stations over Saudi Arabia for a period of four years (2013–2016). Observed and modelled data are in good agreement with high correlation coefficients, index of agreements, and low normalized biases. The total mean annual GHI (DNI) over the AP ranges from 6000 to 8500 Wh m−2 (3000 to 6500 Wh m−2) with significant seasonal variations. The diffuse fraction (the ratio of the DHI to the GHI) is high (low) over the northern (southern) AP in winter whereas it is high (low) over the central to southern (northern) AP during summer, indicating a significant modulation of the sky clearness over the region. Clouds over the northern AP in winter and the aerosol loading due to desert dust over the central and southern AP in summer are the major factors driving the variability of the DHI. The effects of dust and clouds are more pronounced in the diurnal variability of the solar radiation parameters. Our analysis of various solar radiation parameters and the aerosol properties suggest a significant potential for solar energy harvesting in the AP. In particular, the southeastern to northwestern Saudi Arabia are identified as the most suitable areas to exploit solar energy with a minimum cloud coverage over the region.