The various factors that go into choosing the perfect location for a new solar site are complex and include everything from how much the sun shines there to who owns the land.
A new software program from a firm called Geostellar aims to make the process easier by aggregating data from various and sundry resources to give users a complete picture of benefits and detractions of building PV at a particular location.
Geostellar is piloting the software in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Southwest U.S. with certain solar power developers, public administrators, property owners and utilities, the company said in a press release. It will launch additional resources, regions and applications in rapid succession.
“It’s all software and sold as a service,” said Geostellar COE David Levine.
The software is accessible through a browser embedded with Google Earth. He said that all the data is pre-computed.
“[The system] computes all the factors lined up before it’s streamed,” he said. “It will pop up every possible spot. You can click on a spot and it will drill down.”
It also allows for monitoring of a state or region.
“If you monitor a county or a state,” he said, “we put all that into the system so you get alerted [if something changes].” Subscribers are alerted when someone buys or sells property for instance, he said.
The data used comes from NOAA and other sources like the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
“We take all that as source information and do a simulation of the area,” he said.
The simulation includes running the sun through the sky to see how the area actually is affected by the sun. By the time the customer views the information, it’s all pre-computed and packaged, according to Levine.
With a low-end package subscription costing $5,000 annually, it might not seem cheap. Levine said that the price could be as much as half a million a year, but he said the average price is going to be $25,000 to $35,000 annually.
But the service isn’t only for multinational power-producing maestros.
“We don’t charge property owners. If you own a property, we feel you should be able to get your own assessment,” he said. “We charge the power producers.”
At this point, the company is doing residential orders by hand. The larger, institutional users, which will include power producers, developers and utilities, will have to buy a subscription.