Online tool to help governments plan solar use

An Australian-developed tool calculates the solar potential of any rooftop.

A new platform that calculates the solar power potential of rooftops promises to help local councils and urban planners make decisions about investments in solar.

The developers behind the new tool say the next phase of the project could see councils provided with detailed reports analysing solar potential across local government areas, which would help inform large-scale deployments.

The SunSPoT online tool has been developed by Australian PV Institute (APVI) and UNSW with technology partners Solar Analytics and Enosi, with funding under the Commonwealth’s Smart Cities and Suburbs program.

Local governments including Ku-ring-gai, Willoughby, Randwick, Northern Beaches and Lane Cove are among the early adopter partners of the project and provided input and feedback on features that would be useful to government.

While the development costs associated with the new tool were funded under the grant funding, it’s hoped that council subscriptions to the service will fund its ongoing maintenance and data hosting costs.

The tool uses geographical information systems data to estimate the technical potential of rooftop solar, taking into account the tilt of roof surfaces and shading at the site.

Anna Bruce, a senior lecturer in UNSW’s School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering, said the next phase of the project could see councils provided with detailed analyses of the solar potential of their buildings and assets, and even across local government areas.

“In the next phase, there’ll be more detailed information including financial modelling of outcomes under different tariffs for specific rooftops and based on load profile,” Dr Bruce told Government News.

“We can provide much more detailed information, specific to councils.”

A series of consultations with participating councils will inform the next phase of the project and the kinds of analyses and reports that local governments receive, she said.

It may involve subscribing councils having access to a dashboard or portal that delivers ongoing high-level data, Dr Bruce said.  

Enormous untapped potential 

The researchers have already produced a series of reports analysing the usable rooftop area in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, which showed enormous untapped potential for solar panel installations across a range of buildings.

It determined that in most cities, almost half of all building rooftops could go solar:

Solar potential: APVI’s analysis of usable rooftop area in capital cities

Dr Bruce said the team was keen to engage with local government and urban planners to ensure the online tool was widely used as an aid to facilitate evidence-based decision making about solar deployment.

“We want to engage more closely with councils and provide them with data that’s useful for their own planning and policy –making purposes, as well as providing the tool for any of their rate payers to use,” she said.

Access the tool here 

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