Two new tools to remotely appraise scope for renewables

Two organisations have launched software tools that should allow householders and building operators to get a first approximation of whether their home or site is suitable for installing solar and other renewables technologies.

First, Google’s ‘Project Sunroof’ – an online tool which allows homeowners to calculate the savings they could make by installing solar technology in their homes – is being made available to residents in parts of Britain through a partnership between E.ON, Google and software provider Tetraeder.

The Project Sunroof tool uses Google Earth, Google Maps and machine learning to estimate how much solar potential a house has by examining the property’s surroundings, weather data, sun positioning, and roof area/angle.

E.ON says it is the first energy supplier to offer a personalised solar savings estimator in Britain, giving homeowners the information they need to make informed decisions about whether solar technology could be viable for them.

Homeowners in certain regions can now visit to use the tool, which not only calculates potential cost savings quickly, but also allows people to sign up and begin their solar panel installation process.

Second, renewable energy consultancy Dulas has launched its Remote Renewable Energy Survey Service for public bodies throughout the UK. The service utilises light detection and ranging (LiDAR) and geographic information system mapping to remotely assess sites’ suitability for integrated renewable energy. It can provide public sector bodies and others with a pre-feasibility report analysing the potential to reduce their carbon emissions.

The new service selects and appraises suitable locations for ground and roof-mounted solar and other clean energy sources across a given area. It then draws on LiDAR satellite data to gather information on the height of objects including buildings and vegetation to generate highly detailed terrain models, says Dulas. And the approach enables consultants to carry out the analysis remotely, saving time and costs associated with site visits and assessing a large area with multiple buildings.

The company has already demonstrated the service on behalf of the University of Chester’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, assessing a 66-acre site. The study found that solar arrays installed on roofs and car ports could supply 20% of the electricity requirements for the entire site, with commercially attractive payback periods.

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