Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have harnessed the power of Google Earth to fine-tune a free solar map that works like a kind of crystal ball for solar power. The map helps homeowners and other photovoltaic installers to determine the most effective angle for solar panels in different parts of the state. It also helps to predict the amount of power a solar installation could generate. Tools like this are going to become increasingly important as solar energy competes for installation dollars with other emerging small-scale alternative energy technologies including micro wind power and fuel cells.
Predicting Solar Energy
According to an article from the UC Jacobs School of Engineering, Professor Jan Kleissl and his research team have correlated solar production with demand, in order to squeeze the most valuable power out of an installation. Electricity rates generally go up during periods of peak use, so it makes sense to build a solar installation that takes the best advantage of the sun’s location during these times.
Distributed Solar Energy and Green Jobs
Along with making solar energy a more economical choice for individual homeowners, the new map could help speed the development of more distributed solar networks. Distributed solar can help reduce the need to build new central power plants, while spreading more green jobs in local communities. As demonstrated by President Obama’s job-creation record in the first two years of his term, green jobs are an economic powerhouse despite the obstruction of legislators with an interest in preserving the dominance of fossil fuels. If legislators are serious about getting this nation on the right fiscal track, it’s time to stop coddling out-of-date, destructive energy sources.
Image: Crystal ball by Bitterjug on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.