Map Lets Colorado Companies Tally
Jan 13, 2011
- Energy Central - Associated
Plans to develop a free online service
to give large businesses the ability to calculate
how much solar energy they could harvest from their
rooftops has gone better than expected.
The Denver Regional Solar Map, a product
of the Denver Regional Council of Governments, or
DRCOG, is now live at http://solarmap.drcog.org.
The tool allows anyone to plug in an address and
find out the estimated solar potential of that building.
The calculator gives an aerial view of a property,
the total amount of electricity that a rooftop solar
system could produce and the estimated annual savings
on traditional electric bills.
While the project was originally intended to include
information on only about 2,000 commercial properties,
DRCOG was able to expand the study to include estimates
for nearly 800,000 residential and commercial properties
throughout the Denver metro area - including the
vast majority of single-family homes.
"We were able to significantly expand the scope
of the analysis that we did," said Simon Montagu,
director of customer resource and support for DRCOG.
The solar map was developed through a $180,000 federal
grant through the Governor's Energy Office, and utilized
aerial photography, laser measurements and property
records to figure out the size and solar capacity
of individual rooftops.
While the system was intended to account for variables
like shadows, trees and other obstructions in calculating
true solar potential, officials at DRCOG decided
it would be money better spent to broaden the program
to include more properties, with a simpler estimate
of solar potential based on property size.
"It's supposed to get you interested," Montagu
said. "It gives you a pretty good starting point."
A search of some notable rooftops in Boulder found
astounding solar potential.
The Home Depot, located at 1680 29th St., for example,
has the capacity to generate more than 6,000 kilowatt
hours during summer months. A full-scale system could
save about $65,000 a year off the company's utility
bill, according to the calculator.
Macy's department store, located at 1900 29th St.,
has almost identical capacity, according to the online
Boulder's Municipal Building, located at 1777 Broadway,
already has a solar system that's rated at about
10 kilowatts and saves the city about $1,225 annually.
But the solar calculator says the building has the
capacity for a system 10 times that size, which could
save taxpayers more than $13,000 a year.
The Camera building has enough rooftop space to
generate up to 20,000 kilowatt hours during summer
months, and could save more than $19,000 worth of
electricity each year with a 150 kilowatt system,
according to the site.
The calculator includes a disclaimer that, given
the current incentives and rebates available to subsidize
solar systems, the optimum size of a large system
is about 100 kilowatts.
The online program also offers links to solar rebate
centers, as well as the option to fill out a contact
card that is sent to local solar installers. The
installers then contact the user to offer estimates
and onsite inspections.
"It's really meant as a connector tool," said
Jennifer Newcomer, a project manager for DRCOG who
worked on the solar map. "We've had probably
a dozen leads that have been generated just by people
finding the site."
Information from potential customers is passed on
to members of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries
Neal Lurie, executive director of the association,
said the solar map would likely help the solar industry
"There are many commercial building owners
and homeowners who just don't know where to begin," he
said. "We're going to be able to make it easy
to begin the process of going solar. Our hope is
this will continue to strengthen Colorado's presence
in the solar industry."
Boulder City Councilman Macon Cowles, who sits on
DRCOG's administrative committee, also lauded the
"It lowers the cost of solar energy companies
by connecting them with customers and showing them
the areas of the metro region where they can most
efficiently do their work," he said. "So
it is good not only for carbon reduction, but also
for job creation."