Simplified estimation modeling of land surface solar irradiation: A comparative study in Australia and China

Xuan Liao, Rui Zhu, Man Sing Wong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Solar irradiation maps are fundamental geospatial datasets that have been used in a variety of research fields. However, it is difficult to estimate the continuous distribution of solar irradiation over large areas accurately by using conventional interpolation or extrapolation methods based on only a few observation stations. To tackle this problem, this study proposed a method to estimate spatially continuous land surface solar irradiation based on four machine learning models, namely, Gradient Boosting Machine (GBM), Random Forest (RF), Support Vector Regression (SVR), and Multilayer Perceptron (MLP). Clear-sky solar irradiation data were computed based on time and location, cloud optical thickness (COT) and aerosol optical thickness (AOT) that significantly influence solar irradiation were retrieved from Himawari-8 meteorological satellite images, and land surface solar irradiation data were obtained from observation stations for training and evaluation. To explore the weather effects on land surface solar irradiation, air temperatures, humidity, wind, and atmospheric pressure were also quantified and integrated into the models. As a comparative study, this study collected six-year historical data and estimated solar distribution at a 5-km spatial resolution in Australia and China. Based on the coefficient of determination (R2), normalized Root Mean Square Error (nRMSE), normalized mean bias error (nMBE), and consumption of time (t), the results show that GBM achieved the highest accuracy with R2 >0.7 at all stations, followed by RF, SVR, and MLP. It suggests that the proposed method can provide an accurate and reliable estimation of land surface solar irradiation, compared with the theoretical solar irradiation without the obstacle of the atmosphere. The annual solar distribution maps created by the built methods indicate that the proposed method is simple and effective for large geographical regions and can be used worldwide when similar datasets are obtained.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102323
JournalSustainable Energy Technologies and Assessments
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Aerosol optical thickness
  • Cloud optical thickness
  • Himawari-8 satellite images
  • Land surface solar irradiation
  • Machine learning
  • Meteorological data

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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