Why is the Measurement of Solar Radiation Important?

Measuring the sun’s radiation outputhas a variety of useful purposes: it allows for the development of solar energy devices, makes it possible for doctors to issue advice about sun exposure, and permits scientists to predict rates of future global warming on a grander scale.

What’s Being Measured?

The measurement of solar radiation is based on a rate of kilowatts per square meter, represented as W/m2. This is the measurement standard for scientific data, designed for generating a direct estimate of solar energy – basically, how much sunlight is hitting a particular part of the Earth at any given time. Measurements taken for the purpose of energy production via solar panels and other photovoltaic equipment may be calculated in kilowatt-hours per square meter, or kWh/m2, designed to represent the amount of energy being generated by that sunlight.

Measurement Techniques

Several different tools can be used to measure kilowatts and kilowatt-hours per square meter. A pyranometer is a device used to measure global solar radiation, while a pyrheliometer measures direct radiation. A pyranometer is comprised of a thermopile sensor with a black coating, which absorbs all solar radiation, and a glass dome, which limits the spectral response of the thermopile. A pyrheliometer works similarly, but is designed with a solar tracker to keep the device directly aimed at the sun for the duration of the measurement being taken.

Commercial and Scientific Use

Most of the tools used for the measurement of solar radiation are quite expensive, and are primarily utilized by meteorologists and other scientific researchers. Companies manufacturing solar panels and other forms of energy production utilizing solar radiation may also employ the use of these products.Actual solar radiation equipment is not often useful to the average person interested in measuring sunlight intensity for gauging solar panel productivity. Insolation tables, which specify the kilowatts per square meter recorded annually in different areas, are found online.

Practical Purposes

The measurement of solar radiation is useful in much the same way that records of rainfall are useful – it gives us information about our world with which to make informed decisions. For example, insolation tables can help people in different areas decided whether solar panels are an appropriate alternative energy source. If there is not enough solar radiation, they may opt instead for wind power. Such data may also be useful when it comes to deciding how much sunscreen to wear, or for physicians looking to study rates of skin cancer in relation to rates of solar radiation exposure.

Although the technicality and special equipment required for the measurement of solar radiation may make it difficult for the laymanto understand, there are many practical uses for this data. Ultimately, as with many scientific measurements, the collection methods are less important for laymen than the results – but these, when interpreted and translated by the scientific community, can serve a variety of purposes.