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UNSW Associate Professor and Chair of the Australian Photovoltaics Institute, Renate Egan, Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities, Paul Fletcher and UNSW’s Dean of Engineering Professor, Mark Hoffman. Photo: Robert Largent (via UNSW Newsroom)

UNSW Associate Professor and Chair of the Australian Photovoltaics Institute, Renate Egan, Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities, Paul Fletcher and UNSW’s Dean of Engineering Professor, Mark Hoffman. Photo: Robert Largent (via UNSW Newsroom)

Online tool developed at UNSW to calculate solar power potential of rooftops in Australian cities

The Australian Photovoltaics Institute (APVI) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have developed a new online platform that can be used to calculate the solar power potential of any rooftop in Australian cities. The  SunSPoT online tool has been developed with technology partners Solar Analytics and Enosi Pty Ltd, as part of the Energy Data for Smart Decision Making project, funded by the Australian Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs program.

The platform is expected to help residents, councils and businesses make better decisions about investment in solar power.

SunSPoT uses geographical information systems data to estimate the technical potential of rooftop solar. The tool accounts for solar radiation and weather at the site; PV (photovoltaic) system area, tilt, orientation; and shading from nearby buildings and vegetation.

3D building and vegetation models from AAM,  a leading spatial information technology provider and Typical Meteorological Year (TMY) weather data from the US Department of Energy Simulation Software Weather Data webpage are used to calculate average annual and monthly incident solar radiation on a building surface and the expected performance of a typical PV system of the size specified by the user, with PV panel orientation and tilt defaulting to that of the roof surface, or defined by the user.

The platform can already be used online to assess solar potential on specific rooftops in early-adopter local government areas that are already project partners, including Ku-ring-gai, Willoughby, Randwick, Northern Beaches and Lane Cove. More cities and towns will be added as the program expands.

It can also be used to assess the potential across geographical areas. According to the media release from UNSW, analyses of Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney have already discovered enormous untapped potential for solar power installations across a range of buildings.

The tool was launched by Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities, Paul Fletcher. The Minister said, “The Energy Data for Smart Decision Making project will combine mapping with data on solar exposure, energy generation and consumption from precincts across Australia into an open modelling platform.

“Being developed under the Australian Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs Program, the platform will benefit end users by allowing them to calculate their solar power potential and make informed decisions on investment in solar power generation.”

He added that the project is an example of how the program encourages collaboration between local governments, research organisations and the private sector to deliver a solution that can be applied locally and shared around the country.

UNSW Associate Professor and Chair of the Australian Photovoltaics Institute, Renate Egan, commented, “As solar PV continues to be deployed at record rates on Australian rooftops, such analysis can help councils and the electricity industry plan for the solar future.”

The SunSPoT tool is available here: http://pv-map.apvi.org.au/sunspot

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