Solar PV seems to be the current darling of the renewable energy world. But how much “resource” is really out there? How much should cities rely on the development of local solar resources to meet their climate and energy goals? What trade-offs should urban cities make between desirable things like tree canopy and maximizing solar energy resources? GIS tools and new data resources can help begin to answer that question.
Counties and states are beginning to produce LiDAR data more regularly, which provides the building block information needed to analyze solar resources on buildings and elsewhere (see my previous post for a brief intro to LiDAR, or see here). Minnesota happens to have LiDAR for the whole state, and Minneapolis has a climate action goal that references local renewable development, so I’ll focus there.
So how much solar electric potential does Minneapolis have? Enough to supply 773,000 megawatt-hours (MWHs) each year, at the upper bound. That would mean covering every piece of rooftop with good sun exposure and appropriate pitch (southeast to southwest facing or flat) with the best modern PV panels. It would also mean solar installations on 68,351 structures, consisting of over 2.3 million individual panels. Continue reading