For the average homeowner, there’s more benefit to going solar than ever before. With the sun being a consistent source, of energy, those investing in photo-voltaic panels can be assured of seeing returns. There’s bound to be questions about feasibility, yes. About how much space is required, the type of structures involved, whom to contract for setup, etc.That’s where Mapdwell, a spin-off company from MIT that is creating incredibly detailed maps of the solar potential for each and every building in various cities, comes in.
“Solar energy has all this baggage, in a way. Solar panels have been out there for 30 to 40 years, but most homeowners still believe panels are “complicated, expensive, not-for-me kinds of things,” says CEO Eduardo Berlin, an architect and designer who is based in Cambridge, MA. “Solar is a real possibility for many people now, but somehow that got missed. It never got rebranded. The idea that you can put something on a roof and create energy from the sun, it’s pretty amazing.”
Mapdwell has created a huge, extremely useful data set that shows the solar potential of every individual roof in cities like Boston and Cambridge, MA and Washington, D.C., and it’s also visualized that data in an intuitive way that building owners can easily act upon—for example, by sharing their solar report directly with a systems installer.
Mapdwell does a first pass at this by crunching numbers instead. Using technology developed at MIT, the company takes LIDAR data from aerial mapping flights and creates detailed, one-by-one meter resolution 3-D models of the terrain, complete with roof shapes and tree foliage. It then analyzes the solar potential—rating each roof from “poor” to “excellent”—by averaging historical weather data for every hour of every day, totaling to 8,600 data points for each and every pixel.
All that data crunching makes it simple for the end user: They just type in their address and see detailed information for their property. The they can custom build a solar system based on how much they want to spend, how much energy they want to generate, and how much environmental impact they’d like to have.
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