Solar-Estimate.org, a SolarReviews company, has added an online solar estimator, the Solar Calculator, that puts a legit solar design software into the hands of consumers for the first time. Solar-Estimate.org has been known for its solar production and savings calculations, but its newest tool adds automated panel placement and real-world production modeling for a new level of accuracy.
While there are several solar design software packages that do exist, they are specifically for professional solar designers. They require training and aren’t suitable for consumers surfing the web. Solar-Estimate.org thinks its new tool solves that issue and provides professional-grade design and financial accuracy to consumers without any training.
How does the Solar Calculator work?
Other than entering an address for the purpose of identifying your roof (which is necessary for the calculation), there is no additional personal information required to generate an estimate. The online estimator then does several things automatically:
- Confirms the local utility company, including the electric rates and tariff structures
- Determines the average electric usage of the home in kWh
- Looks up time-of-day and seasonal electric usage patterns for the area, backed by data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA)
- Utilizes local solar production data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratories, along with the slope and angle of the consumer’s roof to find out how many solar panels will be needed to offset that level of usage
- The consumer may then choose for 1-4 pre-screened solar installers to contact them.
While Solar-Estimate.org’s solar panel calculator has a history of providing solar savings data for consumers, the recently-added software offers features that no other tool has been able to before.
The addition of artificial intelligence
The machine-trained artificial intelligence “brain” looks at an aerial image of a property. From there, it works out the various roof planes available and the potential of each plane for solar panels. It then places solar panels on the most suitable places of the roof, calculates the expected production of each, and runs a cost-and-savings simulation for that system.
The savings forecasts in the estimator are powered by Genability, a government-audited service for predicting solar savings. Reports are customized for each user and are based on energy usage and rates, roofing material and condition, and brand of solar panels.
If all works as it’s promoted, this could be a big win for the industry to convert more interested solar customers.
— Solar Builder magazine