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Is your house on the sunny side of the street? This online app will tell you

6/20/2016 10:13:54 AM

The summer solstice (June 20) is a good time to think about solar energy

Does your home or business get enough sun to generate solar power?

You can now get an answer – quick, easy and free – with a convenient online mapping tool called the Minnesota Solar App. Simply by typing in your address, you can get an instant analysis of the solar energy potential of your property.

The app is available at mn.gov/solarapp and can be used on a computer, tablet or smartphone.

“The Minnesota Solar App is a user-friendly tool that can help Minnesotans decide whether a solar power installation is right for them,” said Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Solar is already a bright spot in Minnesota’s energy picture. It will only get bigger and brighter in the coming years. This app makes it even easier for more Minnesotans to go solar.”

The typical single family home in Minnesota gets more than enough sunlight to meet its energy needs on a year-round basis. On average, Minnesota gets more sunlight than Houston, Texas, or Jacksonville, Florida.

The Commerce Department expects Minnesota’s solar power capacity to increase 15-fold in 2016, with the addition of more than 500 megawatts (MW) compared to a total of 35 MW at the end of 2015. (One megawatt equals 1 million watts, enough to power about 125 houses in Minnesota.)

The Minnesota Solar App was originally developed at the University of Minnesota and is now managed by the Commerce Department, which has added new and improved features. The agency is responsible for state energy programs, including the promotion of high-efficiency and renewable energy technologies. 

The app is able to measure the solar energy received at virtually any location in the state by using high-resolution imaging data from Lidar, a satellite-based remote sensing technology. 

The tool can also analyze the daytime shading patterns that affect a location’s suitability for a solar installation. An analysis that once required an onsite visit with an installer climbing on a rooftop to take measurements can now be performed with the app, saving both time and money. 

The app has a number of other new or improved capabilities. These include:

  • Estimating a site’s solar performance by month;
  • Rating a location’s solar energy potential from poor to excellent;
  • Calculating installation costs and power output based on the location and size of a solar system;
  • Estimating the time to recover the costs of a solar energy system, depending on power output, electricity consumption and federal and state incentives; 
  • Generating a detailed solar suitability report for the location that can be emailed, printed or stored as a digital file; and
  • Helping with next steps such as finding a local installer, using incentives and contacting the utility.

Energy

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