Reliable Measurement Instruments for a Solar Race through Australia

On October 13th, 2019, a team from Delft University participated in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge for the 10th time.

The aim of the event, which takes place once every two years, was to traverse the 3,000 km long trail of Australia’s outback with their solar car NunaX in the fastest time possible, relying solely upon the Sun as the single energy source.

Measuring Solar Irradiance to Optimize Performance

Image Credit: Vattenfall Solar Team

TU Delft’s Vattenfall Solar Team aimed to stay ahead of the other 50 teams to lift the world title in solar racing for the 8th time. In order to make it through the chequered flag in the fastest time, it was of the utmost importance to keep a close eye on the local weather in Adelaide.

“If we can drive in the Sun just a little longer than the competition, we can get more energy from our PV panel and stay ahead of the other solar cars,” explained Michael Aarts, strategist of the team speaking at the time of the race. “But the local wind speed and direction also influence the car’s energy consumption,” he added.

These reasons made it all the more important to closely monitor the weather with a variety of sensors and cross-reference all measurements with the local forecasts and weather models.

Measuring Solar Irradiance to Optimize Performance

Image Credit: Vattenfall Solar Team

Kipp & Zonen’s SMP10 pyranometers were a key component of the race strategy, providing the  Vattenfall Solar Team with solar irradiance measurements. Thanks to the digital interface, the measurements were fed directly into an application that generated a series of graphs which were then compared to the daily weather models.

This allowed the team to adjust and enhance their tactical approach based on real-time solar irradiance data. If the pyranometer told the team more energy was coming in than previously expected, then the team was then able to increase the speed of NunaX.

In addition to comparing the ground measurements to the weather forecast, the Vattenfall Solar Team was also able to monitor the efficiency of the solar panel with the pyranometers. This was particularly useful in the Australian outback, where dust clouds are commonplace, which would have increased the risk impact and the efficiency of the NunaX’s PV panel.

When the difference between the SMP10 irradiance measurements and the forecasted energy output was too high, it signified that a part of the vehicle’s panel was not working properly.

During the race, the team’s strategy was dependent on the data measured with the pyranometers. It was crucial that the Vattenfall Solar Team was able to trust the irradiance measurements, and it is for that reason they chose to place their trust in Kipp & Zonen’s pyranometers and expertise.

Measuring Solar Irradiance to Optimize Performance

Image Credit: Vattenfall Solar Team

Measuring Solar Irradiance to Optimize Performance

Image Credit: Vattenfall Solar Team

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by OTT HydroMet.

For more information on this source, please visit OTT HydroMet - Meteorology.

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