Easy, Accurate, Clear – Calculating Solar Potential in your city
The economics of a solar power project can be tricky – especially when you don’t have access to the information you need. While it is pretty easy to generalize – “Arizona is sunny – Seattle, not so much” – trying to calculate how much electricity you’ll be able to generate from the panels on your rooftop can be frustrating. And this problem isn’t just felt at home – as cities and counties take a harder look at their parking lots and garages as potential generation stations, knowing how much sun they have to work with becomes critical.
Last week, the American Institute of Physics published a paper on a new way to calculate, compile and graphically show the amount of solar energy potential in a specific region (for example, county or city). The new methodology presented in this paper provides an easy way for you, or members of your city council, to determine the amount of energy that the sun beams down (called solar irradiance) in your area. You can even sort this information by time of day or year, to see how those panels are going to perform at 4pm in January versus 11am in July.
Developed by former graduate student David M. Wogan (of The Daily Wogan) and his advisors, Dr. Michael E. Webber and Dr. Alexandre K. da Silva at The University of Texas at Austin, the aim of this project was to make solar data more meaningful to people who wish to use this renewable resource. In their paper, they discuss how the methodology works (lots of data + computer program + pretty graphs) and apply it to Texas as a case study. Pretty cool.
If you would like to read the paper, you can access it for free here at The Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy.
[Image was found using Creative Commons, using the search term “sunshine.”]