World Bank Launches Online Tool Mapping Solar Potential


The World Bank, in partnership with the International Solar Alliance (ISA), has launched the Global Solar Atlas, a free, Web-based tool to help investors and policymakers identify potential sites for solar power generation virtually anywhere in the world.

According to the World Bank, the tool displays annual average solar power potential and has the capacity to zoom into areas in great detail (with a spatial resolution of 1 km, or 0.6 of a mile). The tool also provides access to high-resolution global and regional maps and geographic information system (GIS) data, enabling users to print poster maps and utilize the data in other applications.

The bank says this will help governments save millions of dollars on their own research and provide investors and solar developers with an easily accessible and uniform platform to compare resource potential between sites in one region or across multiple countries.

The tool was unveiled at an ISA event at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, and the World Bank says the tool serves as an example of the bank’s commitment to ISA and to scaling up renewable energy in client countries. The World Bank notes the data can also be accessed through the International Renewable Energy Agency’s Global Atlas for Renewable Energy. This will allow users to overlay additional data, such as transmission lines and protected areas to identify possible zones or sites for solar development.

The Global Solar Atlas was funded by the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), a multi-donor trust fund administered by the World Bank, and was commissioned in collaboration with International Finance Corp. to ensure relevance to both public- and private-sector stakeholders. Solargis, a commercial provider of solar resource data, developed the tool.

“The World Bank is seeing a surge of interest from our clients in solar power as a result of the dramatic cost decreases over the past few years. We hope that the Global Solar Atlas will help inform the crucial planning and investment decisions that will need to be taken over the next decade to shift to more sustainable forms of energy,” comments Riccardo Puliti, senior director and head of the World Bank’s Energy & Extractives Global Practice.

The bank says the underlying solar resource database is based on up to 22 years of satellite data and has been validated using high quality ground-based measurement data where this exists. However, the bank notes that although the data powering the Global Solar Atlas is the most recent and most accurate currently available, it is not fully validated in many developing countries due to the lack of ground-based measurement data from high-precision solar radiation sensors.

To reduce the risks associated with higher margins of uncertainty, the World Bank, with funding from ESMAP, intends to install solar measurement stations in at least 20 developing countries over the next four years. All data will be made publicly available and is currently being published via the platform.

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