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Open AccessArticle

Satellite-based Cloudiness and Solar Energy Potential in Texas and Surrounding Regions

1
Laboratory for Remote Sensing and Geoinformatics, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX 78249, USA
2
Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX 78249, USA
3
CPS Energy, San Antonio, TX 78205, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(9), 1130; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs11091130
Received: 23 March 2019 / Revised: 30 April 2019 / Accepted: 9 May 2019 / Published: 11 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Collection Feature Papers for Section Atmosphere Remote Sensing)
Global horizontal irradiance (i.e., shortwave downward solar radiation received by a horizontal surface on the ground) is an important geophysical variable for climate and energy research. Since solar radiation is attenuated by clouds, its variability is intimately associated with the variability of cloud properties. The spatial distribution of clouds and the daily, monthly, seasonal, and annual solar energy potential (i.e., the solar energy available to be converted into electricity) derived from satellite estimates of global horizontal irradiance are explored over the state of Texas, USA and surrounding regions, including northern Mexico and the western Gulf of Mexico. The maximum (minimum) monthly solar energy potential in the study area is 151–247 kWhm−2 (43–145 kWhm−2) in July (December). The maximum (minimum) seasonal solar energy potential is 457–706 kWhm−2 (167–481 kWhm−2) in summer (winter). The available annual solar energy in 2015 was 1295–2324 kWhm−2. The solar energy potential is significantly higher over the Gulf of Mexico than over land despite the ocean waters having typically more cloudy skies. Cirrus is the dominant cloud type over the Gulf which attenuates less solar irradiance compared to other cloud types. As expected from our previous work, there is good agreement between satellite and ground estimates of solar energy potential in San Antonio, Texas, and we assume this agreement applies to the surrounding larger region discussed in this paper. The study underscores the relevance of geostationary satellites for cloud/solar energy mapping and provides useful estimates on solar energy in Texas and surrounding regions that could potentially be harnessed and incorporated into the electrical grid. View Full-Text
Keywords: cloud distribution and frequency; surface solar irradiance; global horizontal irradiance; cloud types; solar energy; Texas; Mexico; Gulf of Mexico cloud distribution and frequency; surface solar irradiance; global horizontal irradiance; cloud types; solar energy; Texas; Mexico; Gulf of Mexico
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MDPI and ACS Style

Xia, S.; Mestas-Nuñez, A.M.; Xie, H.; Vega, R. Satellite-based Cloudiness and Solar Energy Potential in Texas and Surrounding Regions. Remote Sens. 2019, 11, 1130.

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