This study validates the hourly satellite based and reanalysis based global horizontal irradiance (GHI) for sites in South Africa. Hourly GHI satellite based namely: SOLCAST, Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), and Satellite Application Facility on Climate Monitoring (CMSAF SARAH) and two reanalysis based, namely, fifth generation European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts atmospheric reanalysis (ERA5) and Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA2) were assessed by comparing in situ measured data from 13 South African Weather Service radiometric stations, located in the country’s six macro climatological regions, for the period 2013–2019. The in situ data were first quality controlled using the Baseline Surface Radiation Network methodology. Data visualization and statistical metrics relative mean bias error (rMBE), relative root mean square error (rRMSE), relative mean absolute error (rMAE), and the coefficient of determination (R2
) were used to evaluate the performance of the datasets. There was very good correlation against in situ GHI for the satellite based GHI, all with R2
above 0.95. The R2
correlations for the reanalysis based GHI were less than 0.95 (0.931 for ERA5 and 0.888 for MERRA2). The satellite and reanalysis based GHI showed a positive rMBE (SOLCAST 0.81%, CAMS 2.14%, CMSAF 2.13%, ERA5 1.7%, and MERRA2 11%), suggesting consistent overestimation over the country. SOLCAST satellite based GHI showed the best rRMSE (14%) and rMAE (9%) combinations. MERRA2 reanalysis based GHI showed the weakest rRMSE (37%) and rMAE (22%) combinations. SOLCAST satellite based GHI showed the best overall performance. When considering only the freely available datasets, CAMS and CMSAF performed better with the same overall rMBE (2%), however, CAMS showed slightly better rRMSE (16%), rMAE (10%), and R2
(0.98) combinations than CMSAF rRMSE (17%), rMAE (11%), and R2
(0.97). CAMS and CMSAF are viable freely available data sources for South African locations.
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