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Hulstrom Solar Energy Research Institute 1617 Cole Boulevard Golden, Colorado 80401 USA

Extensive reference is made to air mass 1.5 (AM 1.5) spectra in reporting PV device (cell, module) performance measurements. This paper explains the origin of the AM 1.5 spectra, how they are related to actual outdoor spectral distributions, and the implications for outdoor PV performance predictions.

irradiance, whereas focusing or concentrating collectors utilize the direct component. The global and direct normal AM 1.5 spectra have different spectral distributions. The diffuse component of global irradiance on a clear day peaks in the shorter (blue) wavelengths and thus, when summed with the direct normal spectrum, adds short-wavelength irradiance to the resulting global spectrum. Air mass refers to the relative path length of the direct solar beam through the atmosphere. When the sun is directly overhead (at zenith), the path length is 1.0 (AM 1.0). AM 1.0 is not synonymous with solar noon because the sun is usually not directly overhead at solar noon in most seasons and locations. When the angle of the sun from zenith (i.e., the zenith angle, e) increases, the air mass increases (approximately by sec e) so that at about 48" from the vertical the air mass is 1.5 and at 60" the air mass is 2.0 (see Figures 1 and 2).

PV cell performance measurements are often reported with respect to an air mass 1.5 (AM 1.5) standard or reference spectra. What are the AM 1.5 spectra? What is their origin? How do they relate to measured outdoor spectra? What are the implications for PV cell design and performance measurements? This paper addresses these questions. Section 2 describes the AM 1.5 reference spectra. Section 3 makes comparisons of the AM 1.5 reference spectra with measured outdoor spectra. The implications of variable spectra for PV cell design and performance measurements are discussed in Section 4.

AM 1.5 reference (sometimes called "standard") spectra are used, both at S E N and elsewhere, to report PV cell performance measurements. Reference spectra are needed for comparing the performance of different PV devices and for charting performance improvements because PV devices are spectrally selective and performance measurements vary as a function of the incident spectrum. The reference spectra that are used by SERI and others, and which are accepted as spectral irradiance standards by the American Society for Testing and Materials, are the "global" and "direct normal" AM 1.5 spectra [1,2]. "Global" (more correctly termed "total") means that the irradiance on the PV device includes direct solar radiation from the sun's disk plus sky and ground-reflected radiation (diffuse) incident on a flatplate device (cell, collector, etc.). "Direct" refers to only the solar radiation from the sun's disk, plus forward-scattered radiation from around the disk, called circumsolar radiation; "normal" means that the sun's rays are perpendicular (normal) to the receiving device. Flat-plate collectors utilize global

Zenith (vertical)

, Q , Direct-Normal

Atmospheric Model
Cloudless sky 25 km visibility 1.42 cm water vapor I ; ; aerosol model

Direct (normal incidence) Irradiance from the Sun's disk.

Direct (1 1.2" incidence angle) + Diffuse Irradiance on a surface tilted 37" from the horizontal

Figure 1.

Schematic of AM 1.5 reference spectral conditions



$1.00 1990 IEEE

Laboratory (JPL) to select the AM 1.5 reference conditions [5,6], the observation was made that optimum reference conditions are those that provide (or easily lead to) an accurate measure of field performance. This means that "representative" or "typical" conditions must be selected from all possible combinations of atmospheric conditions, air masses, ground albedos, and collector modes--which vary.
Atmospheric Conditions

~ ' ~ k % l/ %Earth y v i s i b i l i t v 0.5to 5 cm water iapor urban aerosols etc.

BA ~ 3 0 5 u n 0 2

Figure 2.

Examples of other realistic atmospheric and air mass conditions compared to AM 1.5 (Figure 1)

With longer path lengths, there is more scattering and absorption of solar radiation by atmospheric constituents such as air molecules, aerosols, and water vapor. The scattering and absorption processes are spectrally selective, so the spectral distribution of solar radiation at the earth's surface depends on the atmospheric conditions (e.g., clouds and aerosols). Both air mass (the path length) and atmospheric conditions vary with location, time of day, and time of year, making it necessary to select a specific set of atmospheric conditions and air mass for the reference spectra. The commonly cited AM 1.5 spectra were created using a radiative transfer model called B R I E [3]. The global AM 1.5 spectrum was modeled for a sun-facing collector surface tilted 37" from the horizontal (chosen to represent an average latitude in the continental United States). The direct AM 1.5 spectrum was modeled for a 5.8" field of view looking directly at the sun. Both spectra were modeled for the "U.S. Standard Atmosphere" [4], which contains 1.42 cm of precipitable water vapor and 0.34 cm of ozone in a vertical column from sea level to 100 km. A rural aerosol model (a model option in B R I E ) was used with a sea level visibility of 25 km. Ground reflectance normally varies with wavelength but was held constant at 0.2 (an average value for dry, bare soil) for the model calculations. More details about the generation of these spectral irradiance data sets are given in reference 3. PV cell efficiencies are evaluated against reference spectra for comparative purposes, but then the question arises as to how these PV cells might perform outdoors under different air masses, atmospheric conditions, and ground reflectivities, and for different collector modes (concentrators, fixed-tilt flat plates, and one- or two-axis tracking flat plates). For example, what if the air mass is 2.0 and the atmosphere has urban aerosols and a high water vapor content? What if the ground is covered with green vegetation, which is highly reflective in the near-infrared wavelengths? What if there are clouds? The AM 1.5 spectra serve well as reference spectra but are not necessarily adequate as design spectra for PV device optimization. In studies performed at the Jet Propulsion

One way to determine if reference conditions are adequate for predicting actual field performance is to compare AM 1.5 reference measurements with long-term outdoor PV cell measurements in different locations. However, few PV researchers have the resources to perform extensive outdoor testing over a range of air masses, atmospheric conditions, and ground albedos in different tracking and fixed modes. Normally, the long-term outdoor testing is not done until modules are available. A second option is to perform PV cell measurements under a solar simulator fiitered to reproduce the AM 1.5 spectrum and then change the filters to represent different atmospheric conditions. A third option is to compare AM 1.5 spectra with modeled or measured spectra for various atmospheric conditions and air masses, and then assess potential variations of PV device field performance with respect to the PV design (single or multiple junction, bandgap(s), etc.).


With respect to the third option above, SERI's Solar Radiation Resource Assessment Project was fortunate to obtain the cooperation of the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) in Cape Canaveral and the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) in San Ramon, Calif., to build a data base of measured spectra [7,8]. Spectra were measured over about a 1-year period at FSEC and PG&E in several measurement modes (direct-normal, global tracking, global fixed-tilt) to capture a range of air mass and atmospheric conditions throughout the seasons at these sites. Data were collected at SERI for research purposes during one winter season. About 3000 spectra were obtained among FSEC, PG&E, and SERI that are being used to examine spectral variability. The instruments available for the data base project covered the wavelength range of 300 to 1100 nm. Because some PV devices respond beyond 1000 nm, we used a first order spectral irradiance model [9] to extend measured spectra to 4000 nm; this wavelength range then contains about 99% of the total irradiance. The extension method we used is very approximate and simple. We fixed atmospheric turbidity at 0.2 and iterated through water vapor values to match the depth of the measured water vapor band at 940 nm. Then we used this water vapor value and fixed turbidity to calculate spectral irradiance out to 4000 nm. We also assumed a ground albedo of 0.2. Because the largest variations in the near-infrared region of the spectrum under clear skies are due to water vapor absorption, the approximation is reasonable for clear skies. For cloudy skies,


this technique neglects cloud droplet (liquid water) absorption in the near-infrared region and multiple reflections between the ground and cloud bases. The nature and magnitude of spectral cloud effects are under investigation [lo]. To compare the AM 1.5 reference spectra with measured spectra for PV applications, we converted the spectral irradiance to photon flux and then assumed 100% quantum efficiency to calculate cumulative percent of total possible current density (0% to 100%) between 300 and 4000 nm as a function of wavelength. Spectra were selected from the data base to represent various atmospheric conditions, air masses, and collector modes (direct and global). For the spectra examined to date (summer and winter cases for three sites), the largest spread in the cumulative current densities is observed when a relatively dry atmosphere at higher air mass values is compared with a more humid atmosphere at low air mass values. For example, Figure 3 shows the cumulative percent of total current versus wavelength for global (sun-tracking) spectra from the data base. The upper curves were derived from spectra measured at FSEC in June, with relative humidity between 68% and 75%, water vapor (calculated from relative humidity and temperature [ 111) between 3.7 and 5.9 cm, and air mass between 1.0 and 1.36. The lower curves were derived from spectra measured at PG&E in January, with relative humidity between 26% and 51%, calculated water vapor between 0.7 and 0.9 cm, and air mass between 1.84 and 2.71. The curve based on the AM 1.5 global (37" tilt) reference spectrum is shown for comparison. Figure 4 shows the same calculations for direct-normal spectra. The upper curves were derived from spectra measured at FSEC in June, with relative humidity between 67% and 77%, 100 80

N 0

s 2

l n



1000 1200 1400 Wavelength (nm)



Figure 4.

Cumulative percent of total possible current (0% to 100%, 300 to 4000 nm) versus wavelength derived from direct normal spectra measured at FSEC and S E N compared to the AM 1.5 direct normal reference

calculated water vapor between 4.7 and 5.8 cm, and air mass between 1.01 and 1.37. The lower curves were derived from spectra measured at S E N in January, with relative humidity between 16% and 41%,calculated water vapor between 0.2 and 0.6 cm, and air mass between 2.00 and 2.67. The curve based on the AM 1.5 direct-normal reference spectrum is also shown.

0 r 0

l n

An explanation for the spread of these curves is as follows. As atmospheric water vapor increases, there is increased absorption of solar radiation in the water vapor absorption bands in the near-infrared (NIR) region of the spectrum beyond 750 nm. This results in a higher percentage of the current in the ultraviolet (UV) and visible (VIS) regions of the spectrum below 750 nm. With respect to air mass effects, there is less attenuation of UV-VIS solar radiation for smaller versus larger air mass values, and this also results in a higher percentage of the current accumulating in the shorter wavelengths.
These data show that the curves based on the modeled AM 1.5 reference spectra lie between the two sets of measured data but closer to the dry,high-air-mass curves. Therefore, PV performance measurements referenced to the AM 1.5 spectra are reasonable for these specific cases, although they cannot predict the variability for actual outdoor conditions.

40 20 0 600 Figure 3.


800 1000 1200 1400 Wavelength (nm)

1800 If PV devices are designed (or optimized) to one spectrum, there is no opportunity to observe the impact of spectral irradiance variations caused by daily and seasonal changes in atmospheric conditions (e.g., water vapor) and air mass. Variations in PV performance with respect to a reference spectrum depend on PV design (bandgap, etc.).

Cumulative percent of total possible current (0% to 100%, 300 to 4000 nm) versus wavelength derived from global spectra measured at FSEC and PG&E compared to the AM 1.5 global reference


For example, it is interesting to note in Figures 3 and 4 how the percent of possible current at a particular wavelength cutoff varies with atmospheric conditions and air mass. For, say, 1100 nm, the percent of possible current ranges from about 60% to 66% for the global spectra and about 53% to 63% for the direct spectra. If, for example, a multijunction PV device has a significant response in both the VIS and the N E regions, then the shift in photons from shorter to longer wavelengths (and vice versa) will change the current balance in the device layers--an important consideration for series-connecteddevices.


Hulstrom, R., R. Bird, and C. Riordan, "Spectral Solar Irradiance Data Sets for Selected Terrestrial Conditions," Solar Cells, 15, 1985, pp. 365-391. and J.S. Garing, &tical Properties of the Atmomhere, 3rd Ed., Air Force Publ. AFCRL-72-0497, Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratories, Bedford, MA, 1972.

4 . McClatchey, R.A., R.W. Fenn, J.E.A. Selby, F.E. Volz,


In Figures 3 and 4, the wavelength regions where the curves flatten are the water vapor absorption regions where there is little gain in current with increasing wavelength. This is an extremely important consideration for PV device design. For drier sites, there is slightly more gain in percent current over these water vapor regions than for more humid sites. For device designs that are current-limited by a bottom cell that overlaps the water vapor absorption bands, the amount of water vapor absorption is an important consideration. Although not shown here, additional photons are lost in the NIR region of the spectrum under cloudy skies due to liquid water (droplet) absorption--also an important consideration. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
The AM 1.5 spectra provide a reference point corresponding to a particular set of atmospheric conditions and a specific air mass. One can expect variations in outdoor PV device performance for different atmospheric conditions and air masses. The uncertainty in using AM 1.5 spectra to predict field performance depends on the particular PV device design and climate. As shown in Figures 3 and 4, the wavelength distribution of photon flux varies with respect to conditions such as water vapor and air mass, and this in turn will influence current densities in PV devices depending on device characteristicssuch as bandgap(s). Therefore, PV device design (e.g., optimization) should be based on a range of spectra representing various atmospheric conditions and air masses.

Ross, R., "Photovoltaic Electrical Performance Specification Considerations," presented at the American Society for Testing and Materials meeting, Lake Tahoe, viewgraphs related to the Low-Cost Solar Array Project, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, September 12, 1979.
Gonzalez, C.C., and R.G. Ross, "Performance Measurement Reference Conditions for Terrestrial Photovoltaics," Proceedings of the 1980 Annual Meeting, American Section of the International Solar Energy Society, Inc. (ASASES), June 2-6, 1980, Phoenix, Arizona: ASASES, pp. 1401-1405. Riordan, C., D. Myers, M. Rymes, R. Hulstrom, W. Marion, C. Jennings, and C. Whitaker, "Spectral Solar Radiation Data Base at SERI," Solar Energy, Vol. 42, No. 1, 1989, pp. 67-79. Riordan, C.J., D.R. Myers, and R.L. Hulstrom, Spectral Solar Radiation Data Base Documentation, Vols. I and 11, SERI/TR-215-3513A/B, Golden, CO: Solar Energy Research Institute, 1990. Bird, R.E., and C. Riordan, "Simple Solar Spectral Model for Direct and Diffuse Irradiance on Horizontal and Tilted Planes at the Earth's Surface for Cloudless Atmospheres," Joumal of Climate and Applied Meteorology, Vol. 25, NO. 1, January 1986, pp. 87-97.



10. Nann, S., and C. Riordan, "Solar Spectral Irradiance under Overcast Skies," this conference. 11. Lecher, B., "The Spectral Distribution of Solar Radiation at the Earth's Surface--Elements of a Model," Energy, Vol. 20, No. 2, 1978, pp. 143-150.

Standard Tables for Terrestrial Solar Spectral Irradiance at Air Mass 1.5 for a 37 deg. Tilted Surface, E892-87, American Society for Testing and Materials, Annual Book of ASTM Standards, Philadelphia, PA. Standard Tables for Terrestrial Direct Normal Solar Spectral Irradiance for Air Mass 1.5, E891-87, American Society for Testing and Materials, Annual Book of ASTM Standards, Philadelphia, PA.