This study estimates the impact of dust aerosols on surface solar radiation and solar energy in Egypt based on Earth Observation (EO) related techniques. For this purpose, we exploited the synergy of monthly mean and daily post processed satellite remote sensing observations from the MODerate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), radiative transfer model (RTM) simulations utilizing machine learning, in conjunction with 1-day forecasts from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS). As cloudy conditions in this region are rare, aerosols in particular dust, are the most common sources of solar irradiance attenuation, causing performance issues in the photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) plant installations. The proposed EO-based methodology is based on the solar energy nowcasting system (SENSE) that quantifies the impact of aerosol and dust on solar energy potential by using the aerosol optical depth (AOD) in terms of climatological values and day-to-day monitoring and forecasting variability from MODIS and CAMS, respectively. The forecast accuracy was evaluated at various locations in Egypt with substantial PV and CSP capacity installed and found to be within 5–12% of that obtained from the satellite observations, highlighting the ability to use such modelling approaches for solar energy management and planning (M&P). Particulate matter resulted in attenuation by up to 64–107 kWh/m2
for global horizontal irradiance (GHI) and 192–329 kWh/m2
for direct normal irradiance (DNI) annually. This energy reduction is climatologically distributed between 0.7% and 12.9% in GHI and 2.9% to 41% in DNI with the maximum values observed in spring following the frequent dust activity of Khamaseen. Under extreme dust conditions the AOD is able to exceed 3.5 resulting in daily energy losses of more than 4 kWh/m2
for a 10 MW system. Such reductions are able to cause financial losses that exceed the daily revenue values. This work aims to show EO capabilities and techniques to be incorporated and utilized in solar energy studies and applications in sun-privileged locations with permanent aerosol sources such as Egypt.
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