Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Adam Landsberg

Reader 2

Kevin Setter

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.


As the climate crisis continues to worsen, it is more important than ever to embrace renewable forms of energy and to look for long-term ways to reduce global emissions. Solar energy is a clean and abundant resource that has the potential to transform the energy sector as we know it. This paper seeks to determine the most important climatic variables that influence the effectiveness of solar cell technology. The objective of this paper is to use these climatic variables to perform a geospatial analysis of the contiguous United States in order to determine the regions in which a large-scale expansion of solar energy would be the most suitable, and subsequently use projected climate models to assess how this is expected to change from today through the year 2100. Downwelling short-wave solar radiation was found to be the most accurate measure of solar power potential. This type of solar radiation can be influenced by environmental and geographic factors including cloud coverage, atmospheric conditions, latitude, and altitude. While geographic factors such as altitude and latitude can be expected to remain constant, environmental factors such as temperature and cloud coverage may vary as the global climate changes. This study analyzed historical climate data in order to draw a relationship between the fraction of the sky obscured by clouds and the downwelling short-wave solar radiation measured on Earth’s surface. This relationship was then generalized to predict solar radiation measurements based on projective cloud data. A geospatial analysis was performed to assess both spatial and temporal trends in these climatic variables.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.