U.S. Open Labs - Exploring Resources

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Where can I find information about the renewable energy resource potential in my country?

Renewable energy resource data provides information about the potential for converting solar, wind, hydro, biomass, or geothermal energy into useful heat, mechanical energy or electricity at a particular location. A variety of organizations around the world are involved in collecting renewable resource data.

Renewable energy resource data can be presented in maps to provide information about the spatial distribution of the resource, or in data sets for use in computer-based analysis tools. Renewable energy modeling software requires renewable energy resource in different formats and time steps, and many of the data sources described below are intended for use with a particular piece of software.

The data available from the sources below is typically appropriate for pre-feasibility studies or initial technology screening. Project design decisions usually require detailed resource studies at the site of potential projects. This is particularly true for projects involving large investments.

Global Wind Resources
Global Wind Resources

Global Solar Resources
Global Solar Resources


Dynamic Resource Maps

Dynamic maps can be manipulated from your computer. They can be either web-based or run as a stand-alone application that you install on your computer.

Geospatial Toolkits
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has developed Geospatial Toolkits (GsT) for several countries in Asia and Latin America, and for Ghana. Each stand-alone GsT is a Windows-based viewer that displays a map of the country with layers showing renewable energy resources, regional boundaries, and the location of population centers, roads and electric infrastructure, and other geographic information. The GsTs for some countries also include an interface to HOMER, allowing renewable resource data to be passed to the power system optimization model. These GsTs can display a list generated by HOMER of least-cost system configurations for small power systems at a given location for preliminary technology screening. The geographic data displayed by the viewer is provided with each GsT and can be used with other geographic information system software.
SWERA Renewable energy resource explorer
The SWERA Tool is a web-based map viewer that displays data from SWERA, the UNEP renewable resource assessment program. The viewer allows you to click the map for any location in the world, and displays annual average estimates for the solar and wind resource and climate data at the location. Downloadable monthly average data is also available for each location along with information about the data sources.

How do I use dynamic resource maps?

NREL Dynamic Map Video Tutorial

Static Resource Maps

Static resource maps are provided in a format suitable for printing, typically as PDF files. Renewable energy resource maps are suitable for developing estimates of national and regional renewable energy power potential, and for identifying locations suitable for further study of the renewable resource.

International Biomass Resource Maps
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory's biomass resource assessments are reports of the energy resources available from agricultural and forestry products and residues, energy crops, urban waste and other potential sources of renewable energy. The reports include data, maps, and descriptions of the resource and human activity affecting availability of the resource, as well as analysis and discussion of their potential use for electric power and heat generation, transportation, or as feedstock for chemical production.
International Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Data
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Design and Location website provides information about the global resource for power plants that generate electricity using the energy potential created by thermal gradients between the cold deep water and warmer surface water found in some parts of the ocean close enough to population centers to serve as a potential energy resource. The website describes the technology and includes a list of less-developed countries with access to OTEC resources.
International Wind Resource Maps
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has developed high-resolution maps of the wind resource for several countries around the world. Some maps are included as part of an atlas that includes detailed information about the data and methodology used by NREL to generate the data for the maps.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory's MapStore is a web-based, searchable catalog of NREL's renewable energy resource maps.

Resource Data

The following websites provide access to renewable energy resource data intended for use with computer simulation models. The data is provided in various file formats and temporal resolutions as described below. Note that the wind resource data included with these data sets is typically suitable only for very preliminary analysis of wind power system performance because the wind resource is highly dependent on site-specific conditions and requires measurement at the site for accurate characterization.

EnergyPlus Weather Data
The EnergyPlus weather data website is managed by the U.S. Department of Energy, and provides access to hourly solar resource and climate data from a variety of sources for more than 2100 locations in the U.S., Canada, and other countries around the world. Over 1000 of the locations are in 100 countries outside of the U.S. and Canada. The files are available in the EPW format, which is designed for use with the EnergyPlus building energy performance modeling software, but can be used with other solar energy simulation models including the Solar Advisor Model.
NASA Surface meteorology and Solar Energy
The U.S. National Aeronautical and Space Agency Surface Meteorology and Solar Energy (SSE) website provides access to monthly global wind and solar resource and climate data in text format that is suitable for use in wind and solar energy simulation models that accept monthly resource data such as HOMER and RETScreen. The data is accessible by following the "data access" links under "Renewable Software Application Inputs" in the Data Retrieval section.
[{SWERA | SWERA, Solar, Wind and TMY Data]]
The UNEP SWERA program website provides access to wind and solar resource data from the program partners that is suitable for use in wind and solar energy simulation models that require either monthly or hourly resource data, such as RETScreen, HOMER, and the Solar Advisor Model.
Global Innovation Commons
The Global Innovation Commons (G.I.C.) provides a world-wide repository of all innovations which, while possibly protected in one or more countries, have the ability to be used in the rest of the world due to patent expiration, abandonment, invalidity, or failure to file in-country protection. The G.I.C. enables the immediate “open source” generic production of most technologies – even those considered most cutting edge – in markets where patent holders failed to seek or gain protection.

Other Information Sources

U.S. Energy Information Administration Country Energy Profiles
About EIA country profiles --not sure this belongs here--
Wind Resource Assessment Handbook
This NREL publication from 1997 provides guidelines for developing a wind resource measurement program for project feasibility studies.

Search all US National Laboratory Resource Assessment Tools and Data