How to Assess a City’s Solar Energy Potential?

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While there was a steep drop in greenhouse gas emissions over the first part of the year because of the coronavirus, the expectation is that the world will return to rising levels of emissions in the near future. Alternative energy is a critical aspect in meeting reduction targets.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers have developed an algorithm that predicts the best places to install solar panels on urban rooftops with 97% accuracy. Rooftop solar panels are considered the best way to utilize roof space, while weaning cities from dependence on fossil fuels.

The researchers combined ortho-rectified aerial photography (orthophotos) and LiDAR data to create an aspect-slope map.

Building rooftops are not uniform and the amount of solar radiation they receive is also variable. While previous tools provided some information, this is the first time an entire city could be mapped to such a high level of accuracy.

Their findings were published in Remote Sensing.

The researchers, Profs. Arnon Karnieli and Isaac Meir, and Karnieli’s student, Arti Tiwari, used the southern Israeli city of Kiryat Malachi as their test site. They utilized an orthophoto produced by the Survey of Israel in 2012.

Digital Terrain Models and Digital Surface Models were created by an airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) map in 2015. After combining the data, an aspect-slope map was produced with a 97.39% accuracy.

As the climate crisis worsens, such practical tools are useful for the transition to renewable energy sources, already required by law in many OECD countries.

Prof. Karnieli is head of the Remote Sensing Laboratory, the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, BGU in Sde Boker. Prof. Meir is a member of the Department of Structural Engineering, Faculty of Engineering Sciences on the Marcus Family Campus in Beer-Sheva.


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