Online solar energy marketplace Geostellar has patented an invention for programmatically placing solar panels on rooftops or tracts of land in a 3D virtual world and simulating production over a typical meteorological year based on shading, slope and orientation. The invention forms the basis for Geostellar’s instant Solar Profile, which describes the economic benefits of solar energy for each individual home based on its unique attributes.
The technology behind the patent automates the process of modeling solar energy production by raycasting from each square meter of a roof to gauge shading from nearby trees and distant buildings and hills by moving the sun through the sky over the course of a year in order to “see” when the rays are blocked, then determining how directly the sun shines on the panels based on their relative position on the roof.
The patent is at the foundation of Geostellar’s big-data geomatics approach, to providing affordable solar energy based on the most advanced technology. Using measurements from lasers mounted on airplanes, the company’s high-performance computing platform inspects the sunlight intensity of each square meter of area, delineates a polygon of only the best contiguous pixels, then places the panels within a buildable area.
Using this patented technology, Geostellar’s computers can determine system size and production, compute the cost of a kilowatt hour of solar energy, compare the solar costs to the local utility rate, calculate incentives and finally present the optimal installation and financing plans instantly when an address is entered on the website or in the mobile app. A homeowner can even test out different equipment options and financing terms to arrive at the solution that best meets their unique needs.
“Geostellar pioneered big-data geomatics to make solar energy simple, convenient and economically attractive to homeowners across the country,” said David Levine, CEO of Geostellar. “Hundreds of homeowners every day are discovering the benefits of solar energy for their homes by entering their address and pressing the search button. I’m extremely proud of our talented and dedicated team for bringing such an innovative platform to market.”
Geostellar has processed more than 70 million individual solar profiles for properties across the major solar markets in the U.S. Development of an API to access the solar profiles has been funded in part by an award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative incubator program. The National Renewable Energy Lab compared the results of Geostellar’s algorithms against field measurements by installers and determined the automated results were accurate, relevant and reliable for solar applications. The API is available to utilities, solar financing companies, equipment distributors, installers, sales and marketing organizations and software developers in the solar energy market.
“The instant, accurate solar assessment is a groundbreaking technology for distributed solar,” said Paul Feldman, energy board director, advisor to several energy companies and former CEO of two investor-owned utilities. “This patent recognizes the important work Geostellar is doing to reduce the costs and increase the benefits of solar energy for everyone, including utilities that can use the models for capacity planning and new customer offerings.”
Geostellar manages all aspects of the solar energy installation, from system design and financing to contracting and ongoing monitoring and maintenance, at the lowest possible cost to the property owner, according to the company.
— Solar Builder magazine