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Resource

SEES (Solar Energy from Existing Structures) Software

Simulates spatial variations of potential PV energy production on roofs in urban areas

This free software tool from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, uses the actual conditions to determine the maximum possible magnitude of solar incidence - in a whole town, a neighbourhood, or a particular roof. The scientists first surveyed Gothenburg in a pilot project. The roofs structures of a town may be more or less suitable for the installation of solar panels, depending on such factors as how much a particular roof is shadowed by surrounding buildings and vegetation, the gradient of the roof, and the angle of incidence of sunlight. This tool makes it possible to determine how much solar energy a particular roof will receive during the year. 

The system is called "SEES" – Solar Energy from Existing Structures – and is freely available to companies and municipalities. The tool is based on computer-based geographical information systems (GIS) that collect, store, analyse and present geographical data. This means that the tool describes real roofs in the correct surroundings.

The sun in the model illuminates the three-dimensional built environment and simulates how surrounding buildings, terrain and vegetation throw shadows. The shadow effect can be calculated for each month or for a complete year, and this means that certain parts of a roof may turn out to be unsuitable for collecting solar energy, even though the roof has both optimal direction and gradient. In this way, it is possible to calculate the total solar radiation on each part of a roof structure within a given area, calculated as kilowatt hours per square metre.

Thus, SEES can provide a map over the suitability, based on the user's requirements for good, less good and poor annual solar incidence. Climate data (either measured or calculated values) with a resolution as high as 1 hour is used for the location at which SEES is being used, in order to obtain as accurate an estimate of solar incidence as possible.