NASA’s global satellite data are helping people around the world design and
develop new technologies for exploiting natural renewable energy sources.
Particularly well-suited for under-developed countries, these technologies
better enable the conversion of sunlight, for example, into electricity for
cooking food, lighting homes, refrigerating medicines, and a host of other
practical uses. One product supported by NASA data is receiving
international attention at the Summit of the Americas meeting, April 19-22.

Data from the Surface Meteorology and Solar Energy (SSE) Project are
essential to the global application of RETScreenÆ, a software tool developed
by CANMET Energy Diversification Research Laboratory (CEDRL) for Natural
Resources Canada (NRCan) to help evaluate the viability of implementing
renewable energy technologies. NRCan, which has used SSE data since November
1999, will promote RETScreenÆ at the Summit in Quebec City, Canada. This
meeting, with 34 heads of state scheduled to attend, will stress the
development of a focused agenda to meet collective challenges, including
approaches to energy issues, for nations in the Western Hemisphere.

This topic is particularly relevant today as local, state, and national
governments grapple with issues of cost and distribution of electricity.
Even as there are rolling blackouts across California and states are
debating energy deregulation issues, there are millions of people in
lesser-developed countries who must spend more money on fuel for cooking
than they spend on food itself.

“This has been a great effort by NASA, and they deserve a lot of credit for
making their very valuable data available in a user friendly format to users
around the globe,” said Gregory L. Leng, section head of the Renewable
Energy Capacity-Building Program in CEDRL.

The SSE Project found a way to translate satellite data into formats that
are readily usable by commercial companies, like NRCan. This was a major
breakthrough for engineers who design systems that convert natural energy
into electricity because these data not only provide a global perspective,
they also fill the voids from remote areas where there are no ground-based
monitoring stations and therefore no available data.

“The goal of the SSE Project is to put state-of-the-art, satellite derived
solar and meteorology data into the hands of individuals who are involved in
the research and analysis of the feasibility of renewable energy
technologies,” said Roberta DiPasquale, the SSE marketing manager. The SSE
Project, managed by NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, works
with other government and private organizations to develop the commercial
potential of NASA satellite measurements. RETScreenÆ is just one of the many
ways the SSE team achieves their goal.

“The SSE data set has been incorporated into coursework at educational
institutions around the world, used by students for thesis papers and
analyzed by grassroots and international organizations for possible solar
cooking and rural electrification projects. It has even been accessed by
architects and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning engineers,”
DiPasquale said.

The SSE team converts scientific measurements into data useful to the
renewable energy community. Users can create resource maps based on global
satellite and ground data for a specific area at a certain time. SSE data
are available via an innovative data delivery system at Since June 1999, the SSE Web site has
generated 315,000 hits, and approximately 2000 registered users have
downloaded over 22,600 data documents.