Solar energy is the primary energy source for the Earth's environment and drives weather and climate. The term is commonly used in the community to refer to both the energy being radiated by the sun and received on Earth, and the energy produced by solar power technologies such as electricity from domestic roof-mounted photovoltaic panels.
The first measurement of sunlight performed by the Bureau commenced in Perth back in 1898. An instrument known as a Campbell-Stokes recorder measured the length of time during the day when the sun was bright enough to burn a trace on a paper chart. This instrument is a binary recorder; at any given time the sun is either bright enough to burn the paper or it isn't.
The next level of sophistication occurred in the 1960s when the Bureau installed a network of 28 pyranometers at its weather stations around the country. Not only could these instruments measure both direct (shadow-causing) and diffuse (indirect light scattered primarily by clouds), but they provided information about the amount of energy received every 30 minutes.
At the beginning of 1990 the Bureau commenced a service to provide solar energy data derived from satellite images, which was supported by a new network ground stations with significantly higher quality data than that previously obtained. While the uncertainty around the data obtained from the satellite was larger than that from the new ground network the service offered the significant benefit of covering the entire country.
The majority of the solar information on this website was obtained from satellite data and is a measure of the amount of energy over a period of time (usually a day) which has been received on a flat horizontal surface (eg flat ground). There are many other factors which must be considered when estimating the energy generated from a device such as a solar panel. These include the angle of the panel, whether part of the sky is blocked or shading occurs from nearby trees or buildings, and how effiicent the device is in converting sunlight to electricity.
Climate information for solar energy is arranged as a number of tabbed sections, each of which provides a general overview of the topic, together with a number of sections with more specific, and sometimes quite technical information. For further information please use our Enquiry form.