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Mapping solar energy potential

As photovoltaics become more popular, Bluesky is rolling out national coverage of its Solar Suitability Map.

By mapping the potential for power generation using solar panels on roofs, the Solar Map is designed to identify optimum properties for solar power, helping to achieve renewable energy targets and reduce energy costs.

Bluesky said it has seen a growing demand for its solar mapping among local authorities, utilities, housing associations and solar panel companies. Bluesky’s solar maps calculate the usable roof space of each property. By using detailed 3D aerial survey data and discarding features such as dormer windows, large skylights and chimneys, Bluesky’s Solar Maps provide an accurate indicator of the solar potential of individual roofs.

In addition to the nationwide coverage of solar potential Bluesky is offering a service to create more detailed, bespoke 3D Solar Reports for individual complexes such as government buildings, schools, hospitals or commercial warehouses. All Bluesky Solar Maps can be linked to existing address databases or mapping to select and target the best properties for solar energy generation.

“Since launching the first solar maps last spring we have been inundated with enquiries from local authorities, solar panel companies as well as energy and environmental organisations,” said Rachel Tidmarsh, managing director of Bluesky. “As a result of these enquiries and our own ongoing research and development studies we have refined our processes and developed what is thought to be the most accurate methodology for determining the suitability of properties for solar energy installations, which is why now seems to be the right time to roll the product out nationally.”

Bluesky uses a variety of techniques and datasets to accurately measure and record factors that may contribute to the suitability and usability of a property’s roof for solar panels. These factors include a roof’s usable size, height, pitch, aspect and position. In addition potential shadowing obstructions such as neighbouring properties or trees can be identified and mapped. By combining all of this information it is possible to calculate a roof’s insolation (a measure of solar radiation energy received on a given surface area in a given time) allowing the property to also be graded for solar potential. The solar maps and databases can be supplied in various formats including Google kmz for use in Google Earth and 3D pdfs.

“A little known fact: the earth receives from the sun more energy in one single hour than the whole world uses in an entire year – making the potential for solar energy generation huge,” continued Tidmarsh. “Councils are already considering how they can harness this so far untapped resource with panels on council owned housing and office buildings and our maps and database will help them identify and target suitable properties efficiently and with high levels of confidence.”