Science-- there's something for everyone

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Is your roof a good candidate for solar panels?

Thanks to researchers from the University of Gothenburg, there’s a new tool for assessing which roofs would make the best locations for solar panels.  The tool, named Solar Energy from Existing Structures (SEES) determines the amount of sunlight each section of a roof can expect to get throughout the year.

Even in a sunny climate, not all roofs are equal when it comes to collecting solar power.  Trees, other buildings and geographical barriers can affect the amount of sunlight that falls on a section of roof.  The Swedish scientists developed SEES to determine not only whether a particular roof was suitable, but also how to orient solar panels on the selected roofs. 

The scientists use data from geographical information systems to precisely recreate three-dimensional environments, including local landscapes and structures.  They then illuminated their models to simulate different times of day and seasons.  As you can see below, this provides a map of solar efficiency.

Caption: The new SEES tool provides a map of the solar efficiency of individual roofs, based on their surroundings. Warmer colors show where the solar irradiance is highest. The figure shows the old Härlanda jail and its surroundings.
Credit: University of Gothenburg.

So far, SEES has only been used in a pilot program within Gothenburg.  However, the researchers see no reason why the system can’t be adapted for use everywhere.