Solar data collection, as defined by ISO and WMO standards, is a relatively new activity in Qatar. This article summarizes initiatives underway. In nearly all cases, public access to the solar radiation data is limited since data collection remains immature and unvalidated, or the data is strongly aligned to private commercial interests. Notwithstanding, data collection efforts are making significant progress and are likely to benefit renewable energy strategy development and policy design at the national level.
Solar Data Qatar
In 2003, Qatar Petroleum began data collection on solar irradiance and aerosol concentrations. The primary focus has always been air borne particulate and contaminant monitoring linked to QP production and operations facilities. Twenty reference monitoring stations have been established across Qatar with long-term solar irradiance measurement (GHI only). It is yet to be proven if the data can support bankable solar project development since the data collection effort was designed for environmental monitoring. Notwithstanding, the sensors represent important long-term reference stations and new data analysis and management efforts seek to support solar energy development.
Solar technology has significant potential for generating heat and electricity for integration into QP’s operations. Solar energy also offers potential to achieve higher netback revenues for oil and gas when renewable energy generation achieves scale and begins to displace domestic fuel demand. Other points of interest at QP include solar demonstration projects and technology performance monitoring for national energy strategy and policy. To this end, additional sensor deployments will soon be underway. New sensors are required to support PV performance monitoring and O&M for QP’s first solar energy project, a 2MW facility that combines different PV technologies. Other sensors planned will confirm QP’s solar project pipeline. Oil and gas remain the primary energy products of Qatar, but QP is also looking to the future for alternatives that expand customer alignment and revenue.
The Qatar Solar Test Facility, sponsored by Qatar Foundation and operated jointly by Green Gulf and Chevron, has a single monitoring station with GHI, DHI and DNI sensors. The monitoring station is time synchronized with SCADA systems that monitor close to 40 different PV modules and vender offerings. Data collection has been underway for almost 12 months and will serve to validate vender performance claims, the impact of module soiling on PV performance, as well as the performance of CSP technology in Qatar specific conditions. Similar to data at QP, data management and validation efforts remain immature, but data delivery is making important progress.
Perhaps the most significant data collection effort is that of QEERI, the Qatar Environment & Energy Research Institute and a member of the Qatar Foundation. QEERI is working in collaboration with the the Weather Modeling Department at the Qatar Aviation Authority and will collect solar data for a solar atlas of Qatar. The effort anticipates the installation of more than a dozen solar sensor stations across the State. The project includes satellite data feeds from EUMETSAT, as well as data processes and atmospheric models developed in-house. The long-term R&D project has a multi-year timeline, but promises state-of-the-art model and computational capabilities for real-time solar forecasting and solar grid integration. Test sensor commissioning began in 2012 and primary network commissioning will get underway in 2014.
Finally, QNSFP, or the Qatar National Food Security Program, also has begun solar data collection in conjunction with DLR, or the Institute for Solar Research at the German Aerospace Center. The project was first announced in 2010 and was justified to validate the use of PV and CSP to augment Qatar’s agriculture and water production. Like the QERRI project, data collection at QNSFP is just starting, but will affirm Qatar’s solar energy potential.