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Home > Feature Articles > Alternative Energy Solutions

San Francisco Launches First-of-Its-Kind Solar Map

The San Francisco Solar Map, developed by CH2M HILL for the San Francisco Department of the Environment

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California solar energy conservation For such a notoriously fog-shrouded city, San Francisco has serious solar ambitions. Never mind that those of us who live or work in the city know that seeing the sun depends on where in the city you happen to be — the Mission is surprisingly sunny, while the Inner Sunset is not.

In February, the San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced plans to increase installed solar capacity on the city’s public and private buildings from 2 MW to as much as 35 MW (e-Newswire, 3/07/07). The city’s 2002 Electricity Resource Plan goes even further, calling for 50 MW of solar photovoltaic to be online by 2012.

To help nudge the city toward its installed capacity goals, in June, San Francisco released a first-of-its-kind solar mapping Web portal. The San Francisco Solar Map, developed by CH2M HILL for the San Francisco Department of the Environment, uses a Google Maps mash up to present a from-the-sky picture of the city’s PV installations.

Click on any of the colored dots representing individual municipal (green), residential and commercial (yellow) or “environmental justice” (orange) installations, and a pop-up window presents the system size in kilowatts, the installer and, occasionally, a testimonial from the building owner about why he or she chose to go with solar. Coupled with this is a search function that allows you to enter an address and learn the solar potential for any building in the city.

The San Francisco Solar Map calculated the solar potential and electricity and carbon savings for a PV array on the roof of my office in the city’s Cow Hollow/Marina neighborhood

Solar installers and cities have already realized the potential of the map. In an interview with Stephen Lacey on a July 12 “Inside Renewable Energy” podcast, Nigel Nugent and Steph Stoppenhagen, both with CH2M HILL, say they’ve been inundated with inquiries — from solar companies that want to install systems and cities that want the solar map replicated for their communities — since the map launched.

Nugent said that installers see the map as providing them with a “qualified lead” — consumers motivated to buy — while saving them the time and expense of providing solar assessments. Stoppenhagen, meanwhile, said that they’ve been approached by cities across the U.S. (San Antonio, Berkeley, Fresno, Los Angeles and Boston) and around the world interested in developing their own solar map.

San Francisco solar mapping Web portal.


Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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