A tool to unlock the potential of rooftop solar

Solar power has shown tremendous potential as a way to enhance the sustainability and liveability of Australia's cities. The SunSPot online tool project described in the story below illustrates how that potential could be even greater for smart cities by encouraging collaboration between citizens, their local governments and university researchers in planning a sustainable, reliable energy future. — Doug Peeples


 The tool was developed by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the Australian Photovoltaics Institute (APVI) to help homeowners and urban planners decide if investing in solar installations is the right choice in specific situations.

As the Smart Cities Council reported earlier, Australia is in the midst of a renewable energy  boom. So the emergence of a tool that can help inform decisions by both cities and their residents comes at a very good time.

As UNSW Associate Professor and Chair of the API Renate Egan explained, "SunSPot uses geographical information systems data to estimate the technical potential of rooftop solar, accounting for the tilt of roof surfaces and shading at the site. As solar PV continues to be deployed at record rates on Australian rooftops, such analysis can help councils and the electric industry plan for the solar future." It also takes into account other characteristics of a location, such as solar radiation and weather.

While SunSPot provides data on individual rooftops (homes, businesses, local government installations) it can also assess solar potential on a much larger scale. SunSPot analyses of Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney have already identified solar's potential across a variety of buildings. Local governments in five early-adopter communities are project partners, and more cities and communities will be added as the program grows.

Click the link for a closer look at the tool and more specifics on how it works.

SunSPot was developed as part of the Energy Data for Smart Decision Making project with financial support from the Australian government's Smart Cities and Suburbs program.

Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities Paul Fletcher, who announced the program, noted "This project is an example of how the program encourages collaboration between local governments, research organizations and the private sector to deliver a solution that can be applied locally and shared around the country."

Doug Peeples is a writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartcitiesanz on Twitter.