To know with precise scientific data that Mexico is a country with a great potential to generate solar energy, greater than European nations such as Germany and England that today promote this renewable resource, the UNAM has the Mexican Solarimetric Service, attached to the Institute of Geophysics (IGf), responsible for a network of 13 stations equipped with up to 22 state-of-the-art instruments in various regions.

Mexico is among the five countries with more capacity, although it has great variations in availability due to the climatological diversity of its territory, which we must know in detail to exploit this energy properly, said the head of the Solarimetric Service and IGf researcher, Mauro Valdés Barrón. This instance was created to respond to a need that exists now and is urgent: to evaluate it. It is feasible to take advantage of it, but it is necessary to know how much it arrives, where and at what time of the year; that is to say, its spatial and temporal distribution.

The data allow the generation of solar thermal potential for electricity production, industrial process heat systems, research and development in materials for the use of energy and solar fuels. In states such as Sonora and Chihuahua, solar resources are abundant, with strong seasonal variations; on the other hand, there are other areas with a large amount of solar energy, such as the arid regions of Puebla and Oaxaca, and a good part of Morelos, which are excellent for the exploitation of solar resources throughout the year.

How much there is and where will depend on the technology used for its exploitation? The most widely used are photovoltaic panels, which have had a great development in the last years, with efficiencies higher than 20 percent, which are increasing more and more. These devices generate energy even if it is cloudy; on the other hand, solar concentration requires completely clear skies, since it works as if it were a magnifying glass and if a cloud gets in the way, part of the resource is lost.

Data generation

The Mexican Solarimetric Service is dedicated to the calibration, measurement, validation, processing, and publication of information on the subject in the country, for society in general, private institutions, state and federal government entities. It has the participation of state public universities in each station, which are members of the network. It is formed from the creation of the Solar Radiation Observatory and a specialized network of stations distributed throughout the national territory, in which different components of surface solar radiation are measured, both in its global form and in different spectral components.

The generation of data is useful for scientific research, as well as for the design and planning of technologies for the use of the resource. Furthermore, the Service provides advice to professionals in various branches of knowledge and, at the same time, can generate information processing and analysis tools for the federal government and state entities. The stations are located in Mexico City (inside Ciudad Universitaria, on the rooftop of the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate Change); Coeneo, Michoacán; Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua; Ejido Venecia, Gómez Palacio, Durango; Guerrero Negro, Baja California Sur; Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo; and José María Morelos, Morelos.

Also in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas; Selegua, Frontera Comala, Chiapas; Tepic, Nayarit; Quintana Roo; Zacatecas, Zacatecas; and Hermosillo, Sonora. "We divided the country into 17 regions according to their climatological characteristics, but there are still missing stations in areas such as Tabasco and Veracruz," acknowledged the specialist, who said that the 14th station will soon be ready in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, and the one in Temixco, Morelos, is being perfected.