Validation of satellite-derived solar irradiance datasets: a case study in Saudi Arabia

GHI prediction Solar irradiance prediction solar irradiance estimation satellite-derived irradiance


  • Abdulrahman Almarshoud
    Department of EE, College of Engineering, Qassim University, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia
January 8, 2024


A robust dataset of Surface Solar Irradiance is essential for secure competitive financing for solar energy projects. Rating agencies and lenders alike require verification of the solar-resource dataset for utilizing each solar energy project, as this can be translated directly into expected electrical energy and revenues. The accuracy of the dataset and the variability of solar radiation, as recorded by historical solar data, play a significant role in estimating the future performance of the project and its budget. The historical observed solar irradiance datasets by local stations are the best and most reliable for a specific site, but they are not always available for long and continuous periods in any location, especially in arid areas. So, the importance of historical solar radiation datasets derived from satellite-based models arises here. This paper validates the historical modeled datasets of the three most famous satellite-based commercial prediction models (SolarGIS, SUNY, and Solcast) against the observed dataset by six ground stations in Saudi Arabia under different climatic zones. The validation method has been implemented using the standard error metrics: Maximum Absolute Error (MAE) and relative Maximum Bias Error (rMBE). The validation process showed that, in the case of GHI, the discrepancy between observed and predicted values is narrow, while in the case of DNI, the discrepancy is wide. Also, the predicted GHI values are more accurate than predicted DNI values, and -in general- the values predicted by the SUNY model are less accurate than those predicted by SolarGIS and Solcast models for both GHI and DNI. The resultant of this validation process could be accepted not for the six locations under study only but, also for deserts and arid areas across Saudi Arabia and might be extended to similar arid areas around the world.