Denver-area solar map shows rooftops’ potential
January 2, 2011
BOULDER – A free online “solar map” that allows people in the Denver area to calculate how much solar energy they could harvest from their rooftops has exceeded expectations.
The Denver Regional Solar Map was started as a way to estimate solar potential on about 2,000 commercial properties. But the Denver Regional Council of Governments expanded it to include solar estimates for nearly 800,000 residential and commercial properties – including the vast majority of single-family homes.
The solar map was developed using a federal grant of $180,000.
At first, creators wanted the mapping tool to account for variables like shadows and trees in calculating true solar potential, the (Boulder) Daily Camera reported.
Then officials at DRCOG decided instead to broaden the map to include more properties, with simpler estimates of solar potential based on property size. In other words, the tool isn’t perfect – but many more people can use it.
“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.
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“It’s supposed to get you interested,” Montagu said. “It gives you a pretty good starting point.”
For example, a Home Depot building in Boulder is listed with 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.
Boulder’s Municipal Building 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 tool also includes information about solar product rebates and how to find someone to install solar panels. There are links to get estimates on installing solar panels.
“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.”
Boulder City Councilman Macon Cowles, who sits on DRCOG’s administrative committee, said the map is helping businesses, not just the environment.
“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.”