Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a method of geographically measuring solar insolation — the amount of solar radiation that hits a certain area at a certain time — that will help decision makers and the general public locate the best places for solar energy installations. The method takes into consideration the topography of a certain area as well as the amount of solar radiation that occurs over an average day to measure the potential solar electricity output at a certain location. This information could be critical in deciding how cost effective future solar installations will be over time.

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This new type of solar mapping information, “can be used by policymakers, businesses, and the public to understand the magnitude of solar resources in a given region, which might aid consumers in selecting solar technologies, or policymakers in designing solar policies,” says David Wogan, who is graduate student in mechanical engineering and public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and the lead author of the research paper. The data is presented in a Geographic Information System which can be viewed as a map of a certain area which denotes — with colors or other indicators — which areas have high solar productivity levels.

In their paper the researchers used Texas as their example — the state is geographically diverse, making it a good test subject. “The framework is not limited to Texas and can be expanded to other states and countries to understand how renewable energy resources are distributed, both geographically and through time,” Wogan noted.

Via Science Daily