Dutch researchers have developed a new method to help architects and urban planners incorporate solar panels into their designs.
Buildings in towns and cities offer a variety of locations for installing solar panels, but several factors affect which sites are best, including the angle of the sun at different times of the year and the shade cast from other buildings and trees.
While existing tools are already available for simulating the energy yield of photovoltaic (PV) systems, it is much more complex in an urban environment as the dynamic shading of surrounding objects caused by the annual movement of the sun has to be taken into account.
Researchers at Delft University of Technology say their new approach simplifies the calculation and enables the user to carry out a quick assessment of the solar energy potential for large urban areas whilst keeping high accuracy.
The method – detailed in a paper published in the journal Nature Energy – is based on a correlation between a skyline profile and the annual irradiation received at a particular urban spot.
According to the research team, their work demonstrates that the total annual solar irradiation received by a selected surface in an urban environment can be quantified using two parameters that are derived from the skyline profile: the sky view factor and the sun coverage factor. While the first parameter is used to estimate the irradiation from the diffuse sunlight component, the second one is indicative for the irradiation from the direct sunlight component. These two parameters can be easily and quickly obtained from the skyline profile, and the study shows that the use of these two parameters significantly reduces the computational complexity of the problem.
The Photovoltaic Materials and Devices (PVMD) group at TU Delft has already integrated the approach in a new software tool that can calculate the energy yield of PV systems at any location.