US Weather Data Sources for Solar PV Installations

Goals

To find a good, dependable source that can be used to enable solar PV installations in the US. In order to do this, four identified sources should be validated to determine whether the data in them can be accessed via a public API, or as a dataset that is available for purchase. Additionally, two other potential sources of US weather data should be identified that are preferably accessible via a public API.

Early Findings

During the first hour of research, two data sources have been analyzed, the Applied Technology Council database and the Solar America Board for Codes and Standards (Solar ABCs).

Applied Technology Council (ATC)

  • The ATC database (currently in beta) is accessible via a public API. "The ATC Multi-hazard Design Loads Public API allows programmatic access to all of ATC's windspeed, snow, tornado, and seismic design loads data."
  • The access to ATC's API is available for purchase. "Access is enabled by purchasing an API key and including it in the header of your request. Each API key has a monthly quota based on your pricing level."
  • Very little information exists about the pricing of ATC's API subscription. There is an API Key Request Form on the website, which asks for a name, email, and telephone number.
  • ATC's database does not include temperature data and frost depth data. It includes snow load, wind speed, seismic design/load, and tornado design. The database can be searched by weather station address or coordinates.

Solar America Board for Codes and Standards (Solar ABCs)

  • The Solar America Board for Codes and Standards (Solar ABCs) is owned by the University of Central Florida (UCF) and is operated by UCF's Florida Solar Energy Center. It cannot be accessed via an API and the data is not available for purchase as a dataset. It can only be accessed online, via the website's integration with Google Maps.
  • The Solar ABCs' Solar Reference Map can either be searched by city and state name, or by ZIP code. Then, an interactive map is shown where each weather station is marked with an icon. Clicking the icon displays the data for that weather station in a pop-up on the map. This is all done through a JavaScript script, so there is no way of accessing the raw data by looking at the source code of the map.
  • The data that Solar ABC provides is only related to temperature. For each weather station (not searchable by coordinates), the interactive map provides the following data points: 1) the elevation of the weather station; 2) the high temperature in degrees Celsius (two measurements - a less conservative and a more conservative one); 3) the extreme minimum temperature, which is the lowest expected ambient temperature for the station; and 4) three temperatures that are dependent upon the minimum height of a conduit above a roof (0.5", 3.5", 12").
  • Solar ABCs database does not provide any data on snow, frost, wind, or seismic activity.

Summary

The ATC database does not offer temperature data, so it might not be perfectly suitable for enabling solar PV installations in the US. The Solar ABCs database only has temperature data, but it is not accessible via a public API, and the dataset is not available for purchase. At first glance, it appears that the ASHRAE database has several datasets which are available for purchase. The National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB) looks most promising, as it seems to offer datasets for purchase, as well as access via a Python API. However, further research is needed to confirm this and to determine the data points available in these two sources.

Proposed next steps:

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