'Solar Atlas' reveals high urban energy potential

BERLIN -- Berlin city officials are using Google Earth to show investors and residents what their sprawling rooftops have to offer.
Written by Shannon Smith, Correspondent (Berlin)

BERLIN -- Some 220,000 roofs in the German capital would be ideal for solar panel installations - and many owners don't even know it.

That's according to the city of Berlin, who contends the existing 9,000 solar systems aren't nearly enough. But with its Solar Atlas project - a 3D, color-coded map of rooftops in Berlin - the city wants to show property owners and potential investors how suitable a rooftop may be for a solar installation - and whether the move will pay off.

"We want property owners, investors and anyone else who may be interested to have an idea of the sustainable potential in the city," Karin Teichmann, a representative of Berlin's Business Location Center said.

The Atlas is available as a 2D web app or 3D Google Earth model with the download of a special file and some setup steps. Users then have key information such as potential power input, reductions in CO2 emissions and investment costs at their fingertips. Further questions can be directed to the Business Location Center, which has a specialist consulting group on hand.

The solar suitability of more than 500,000 roofs was calculated based on a number of factors including the slope of a roof, its orientation and the hours of sunlight it received per day. The model also factors in the average price and efficiency of solar cells compared to the total amount of solar radiation a rooftop receives.

The city says the project demonstrates its commitment to the growth of environmentally sustainable investment in the German capital, as well as highlighting the ways in which technology can aid green innovation. It contracted rds energies GmbH, along with its rds Dachkampagne project, to handle consultations and liaising between property owners, investors and solar panel professionals.

Laser systems in airplanes were used to collect physical data about the city's roofs. The information was later applied to the 3D model of Berlin created for Google Earth by the city itself.

"I think it's a functional map that also takes an interesting form," Teichmann said.

"People enjoy the feeling of virtually flying through the city as a new way to experience it, and this has become another way to understand the economic and physical potential of the city in which we live."

Photo: Business Location Center

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards