With solar power becoming a more affordable source of energy and in states like Hawaii where the cost of solar power already equals that of other sources at current electricity prices (grid parity). Grid parity is expected to become the trend for many places across the US by 2020. As a result, local governments, states and the federal government as well as the private sector have developed online solar tools or solar maps that combine topographical data, meteorological data and financial to equip a wide range of stakeholders with useful information for decision making.
Online solar tools for solar developers
For solar developers, the degree of accuracy is of importance when it comes to solar project development and LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging Data) is a great solution, but very costly and many LiDAR projects are funded by local, state or the federal government to eliminate such costs to the private sector.
LiDAR provides the greatest degree of accuracy. LiDAR create 3 dimensional digital models that analyses the impact of shading on solar projects through identification of shading obstructions, roof tilts as well as an estimation of the area available for a specific solar installation.
However, LiDAR only provides topographical data which when combined with meteorological and financial data will help provide solar developers with useful information about a specific solar project in a short time. Using such solar online tools, solar developers save time with remote site analysis and can design and quote a commercial solar system from their desk. However, for commercial solar projects, it is up to solar developers to find and compare solar resource and weather data from various sources (both private and public) to reduce project uncertainty that will impact the financial viability of the project. Finding reliable weather data (including precipitation, wind speed and temperature) are essential for estimating PV system production and financial returns. Therefore any project uncertainty can impact on the future financial projections or performance of the PV system.
Online solar tools for homeowners and businesses
Online solar tools for prospecting solar customers are helpful to help them research on their specific solar power potential of their homes or businesses. These solar online tools can help homeowners and businesses to educate themselves when it comes to how to go solar and whether going solar will be beneficial to them and to what extent. Online solar tools provide solar estimates of the following specific information similar to solar developers. This information includes but not limited to:
Cost of installation
Potential energy savings
Solar PV system size (How many solar panels do I need)
Solar maintenance requirements
Life span for the PV system
Pre-screened solar installers
In addition, online solar tools can be used for all sizes of PV projects and will provide site specific data taking into consideration, topographical, meteorological and financial data necessary to help homeowners decide or make more informed decisions when it comes to going solar.
Get started today with EnergySage, which is used by over one million people every year to help them research and shop for solar while taking into consideration the above solar design questions.