Credit: © 1996-2018 MDPI (Basel, Switzerland)
In recent years, various online tools and databases have been developed to assess the potential energy output of photovoltaic (PV) installations in different geographical areas. However, these tools generally provide a spatial resolution of a few kilometers and, for a systematic analysis at large scale, they require continuous querying of their online databases. In this article, we present a methodology for fast estimation of the yearly sum of global solar irradiation and PV energy yield over large-scale territories. The proposed method relies on a multiple-regression model including only well-known geodata, such as latitude, altitude above sea level and average ambient temperature. Therefore, it is particularly suitable for a fast, preliminary, offline estimation of solar PV output and to analyze possible investments in new installations. Application of the method to a random set of 80 geographical locations throughout Europe and Africa yields a mean absolute percent error of 4.4% for the estimate of solar irradiation (13.6% maximum percent error) and of 4.3% for the prediction of photovoltaic electricity production (14.8% maximum percent error for free-standing installations; 15.4% for building-integrated ones), which are consistent with the general accuracy provided by the reference tools for this application. Besides photovoltaic potentials, the proposed method could also find application in a wider range of installation assessments, such as in solar thermal energy or desalination plants.