Climatology of the aerosol distribution in the planet boundary layer for solar energy applications

Diana Mancera, Colombia (PPRE 2011-13)
PhD at University of Oldenburg and Earth Observation Center at the German Aerospace Center (DLR-Oberpfaffenhofen)


Main subject: Energy Meteorology

Atmospheric components exert significant influence over the solar radiation that reaches the receiver of CSP plants. Namely, atmospheric gases, clouds, water vapor and aerosols; each one impacts to a different extent and within a different time scale. This study tackles specifically the aerosol presence in the lowest part of the atmosphere. In other words, it aims to know what is the aerosol concentration in the lowest 300m of the PBL(Planet Boundary Layer). 300m is the currently relevant height for the design and operation of Solar Central Receiver plants (towers).

Due to the solar tower design the attenuation between the heliostats and the central receiver is presumably comparable to a significant portion of the attenuation that the radiance undergoes between the top of the atmosphere and the mirrors. This effect would be enhanced and more critical under a high aerosol load in the volume of air to which the plant belongs. Three datasets are used to retrieve the mentioned information:

  1. CALIPSO satellite data: data from CALIOP instrument (LIDAR)
  2. COSMO-MUSCAT: dust regional model. Its geographical domain ranges mainly Europe and Northern Africa
  3. MACC: provided by ECMWF. It has a global geographical cover

Both data sources, satellite and model data, are not exempt of limitations. Nevertheless, they represent a starting point to provide further information for solar forecast simulations. Currently, generic and theoretical assumptions of the aerosol vertical profiles are used but they do not necessary meet the conditions of each place. 

The goal is that in the future CSP industry (or research) partners can use these datasets to test the possible improvements of Solar energy yield forecasting.

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