Direct insolation is the solar insolation measured at a given location on Earth with a surface element perpendicular to the Sun's rays, excluding diffuse insolation (the solar radiation that is scattered or reflected by atmospheric components in the sky). Direct insolation is equal to the solar constant minus the atmospheric losses due to absorption and scattering. While the solar constant varies with the Earth-Sun distance and solar cycles, the losses depend on the time of day (length of light's path through the atmosphere depending on the Solar elevation angle), cloud cover, moisture content, and other impurities.
Average direct insolation
For practical purposes, a time-average of the direct insolation over the course of the year is commonly used. This averaging takes into account the absence of sunlight during the night, increased scatter in the morning and evening hours, average effects of cloud cover and smog, as well as seasonal variations of the mid-day solar elevation.
Units of measurement
Direct insolation is measured in (W/m²) or kilowatt-hours per square meter per day (kW·h/(m²·day)).
- 1 kW·h/(m²·day) = 1,000 W · 1 hour / ( 1 m² · 24 hours) = 41.67 W/m²
In the case of photovoltaics, average direct insolation is commonly measured in terms of peak direct insolation as kWh/(kWp·y) (kilowatt hours per year per kilowatt peak rating)
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