The first two utilize the Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology for some time already and the third one joins them in an accelerating rate with widening LIDAR application opportunities in the energy sector and opening new horizons for more effective and accessible solar energy to everyone. Since LIDAR has been first used in 1960s by NASA for research purposes it has found numerous application fields and technological improvements and therefore have increased the accessibility of the technology greatly. LIDAR in solar is mainly utilized for remote site (or roof) assessment where basically a scanner (often attached to a plane to complete scanning) emits pulses of light energy (laser) at objects in the area and measures how long it takes for the pulse to return. What you get as a result is a distance “point cloud map” and what you see is practically a 3D model of an area, city or a neighborhood where millions of points represent a distance the light took to travel from the laser to an object surface. Where LIDAR surveying is completed for large areas (e.g. city, country) we receive enormous amounts of data that can be used for multiple applications including the assessment of house roofs to determine which ones hold most unutilized potential for solar plant installation. One of the first publicly available project of remote solar assessment is offered by Google under the name Project Sunroof.
This approach in a way transforms the way we do solar (PV) plant site assessment and system sales and has the potential to bring the efficiency of the process to a whole new level. Studies funded by the U.S Department of Energy (DOE) have found that the use of LIDAR for remote solar plant location assessment were extremely accurate (within max. 3.5% of on-site measurements) and newer technologies achieve even better precision, practically eliminating the need for thorough on-site visits and measurements that installers do extensively every day. In addition, this approach helps address many other problems: sites can be quickly identified and screened for solar potential and optimal system design offered to a customer in seconds. More importantly sales teams and installers save enormous amounts of time for identification of clients, evaluation of a site, eliminate the need for lengthy on-site visits and make it easier to explain the economics and the technical aspects of such investment to a customer. Utilizing these tools sales teams are able to serve much more customers and customers are more confident of the decision to adopt the renewables without hesitation.
Overall, integrating LIDAR to solar plant site assessment is foreseen as one of the key enablers for quicker, cheaper and more efficient access to solar energy today.
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