Useful radiation

Only a part of the huge energy flows that gets from the Sun to the Earth can be transformed into useful energy. The quantity of solar energy that arrives to the earth’s surface and that can be usefully “collected” depends on irradiation on the area. Irradiation is the quantity of solar energy that arrives at a surface within a determined time interval, typically one day (it is measured in kWh by square metre by day). Instead, the value of solar radiation that arrives on the surface unit (at a determined moment) is called radiance (it is measured in kW/m2). Irradiation is influenced by local climatic conditions (clouds, mist, etc) and depends on the latitude: as it is well known, it increases when it gets closer to the equator. In Italy mean annual solar radiation ranges from 3.6 kWh per square metre per day in the Po river plain area, to 4.7 kWh per square metre per day in Central-Southern Italy, to 5.4 kWh per square metre per day in Sicily. In some favourable spots it is possible to collect every year around 2,000 kilowatts for each square metre, which corresponds to 1.5 barrels of oil for a square metre.

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