Friday, May 25, 2018

Sunshine at CRN Sites

After reviewing the status of Alaska's CRN data last week, curiosity led me to take a look at the solar radiation measurements from these sites.  For example, it's interesting to find out what these instruments have to say about how solar radiation varies across the state - at least for the last few years.

The chart below shows a summary of April-October total solar energy for the 11 sites that have been in operation since at least 2013 and have essentially complete data for these months.  The horizontal black lines show the 5-year mean for each site, and the blue bars indicate the minimum and maximum values within this brief 5-year period.

The sites near Fairbanks and Tok are the only interior sites represented here, and as we would expect they are at the top for solar energy.  Interestingly Metlakatla, on Annette Island in Alaska's far southeast, is in 3rd place and close behind Fairbanks.  It's not surprising to find that rainy Sitka is easily in last place; but note that the difference in solar energy between the cloudiest site and the sunniest site is less than 50%.

The range between minimum and maximum seasonal totals is remarkably high at the Red Dog site, but this is mostly because of a very low total from 2013; this looks suspicious and might be incorrect.  (If we exclude 2013, Red Dog actually comes in above Fairbanks for mean solar energy, and the Red Dog instrument also reported the highest seasonal total of any site in any year.)  More robust, perhaps, is the very low variance of solar radiation at the sites near Barrow (Utqiaġvik) and Tok; it's quite extraordinary, actually, how consistent the solar energy has been at these locations in the past 5 years.  But in the case of Barrow, data from earlier years showed higher values - see below.

The decrease of solar energy at the Barrow CRN site, evident in the chart below, is highly statistically significant even over such a short period.  Presumably this is related to the increase in open water area in the Arctic Ocean and therefore higher evaporation and increased cloudiness in recent years.


  1. Very encouraging analysis, is there a download portal for CRN data? Being a SNAP and off the grid producer I was amazed how much readily harvested PV energy is available. Hopefully ratepayers around the state see this information and talk it up to their elec utilities. The problem of Nov to Feb still remains however. I’ll

    1. Bill, apologies for missing your reply - somehow the notification didn't make it through. Yes, daily CRN data are available here:

      Let me know if you'd like any pointers on how to access/decode the data.