Quantifying rooftop solar photovoltaic potential for regional renewable energy policy
Computers, Environment and Urban Systems
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Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology has matured to become a technically viable large-scale source of sustainable energy. Understanding the rooftop PV potential is critical for utility planning, accommodating grid capacity, deploying financing schemes and formulating future adaptive energy policies. This paper demonstrates techniques to merge the capabilities of geographic information systems and object-specific image recognition to determine the available rooftop area for PV deployment in an example large-scale region in south eastern Ontario. A five-step procedure has been developed for estimating total rooftop PV potential which involves geographical division of the region; sampling using the Feature Analyst extraction software; extrapolation using roof area-population relationships; reduction for shading, other uses and orientation; and conversion to power and energy outputs. Limitations faced in terms of the capabilities of the software and determining the appropriate fraction of roof area available are discussed. Because this aspect of the analysis uses an integral approach, PV potential will not be georeferenced, but rather presented as an agglomerate value for use in regional policy making. A relationship across the region was found between total roof area and population of 70.0m2/capita±6.2%. With appropriate roof tops covered with commercial solar cells, the potential PV peak power output from the region considered is 5.74GW (157% of the region's peak power demands) and the potential annual energy production is 6909GWh (5% of Ontario's total annual demand). This suggests that 30% of Ontario's energy demand can be met with province-wide rooftop PV deployment. This new understanding of roof area distribution and potential PV outputs will guide energy policy formulation in Ontario and will inform future research in solar PV deployment and its geographical potential. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.