January 7, 2009 By Elaine Rundle
Cities wanting to remove the guesswork from solar power installations are turning to friendlier technology for citizens. Since typing a street address into a Web site is all it takes to determine how much solar power can be obtained from a rooftop installation, who wouldn't take a look?
An exemplar is the San Francisco Solar Map that lets residents view buildings that are equipped with solar power. Users also can type their address into the Solar Map site to get an analysis of how much solar power their roof could harness.
"We wanted something that would help people, that would break down some myths about installing solar in San Francisco, and then offer a tool to people who were interested in solar but didn't really know how to take the first step," said Johanna Partin, renewable energy program manager of the San Francisco Department of the Environment.
San Francisco has set a lofty goal: 10,000 roofs equipped with solar power by 2012. As of press time, 871 of the city's roofs had solar panels installed. The Solar Map's goal is to offer residents a simple tool to learn about solar installation. The department envisioned a platform similar to Google Earth, so residents could zoom into the view of their building, according to Partin.
In spring 2007, San Francisco presented the idea to CH2M HILL - an engineering, consulting and construction company. "Mayor [Gavin] Newsom was very interested in promoting solar, and they said, 'Can we quickly come up with a solution that allowed business owners and residents of San Francisco to make an assessment of the solar potential of their building?'" said Dave Hermann, client solutions director of CH2M HILL. "And that was really the genesis of the idea of the Solar Map."
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