Bristol’s Solar Panel Potential

19 Aug, 19 by Hannah Boast

Increasing our use of renewable energy resources such as solar power and wind, in place of non-renewable resources, is critical for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. And a key way to do this is through improving the energy efficiency of cities. ‘Multi-energy systems’ (MES) can do this by optimising the dispatch, conversion, and storage of energy through different systems and sectors. 

Bristol has long been recognized as a city of high environmental standards, establishing the “Green Capital City” in 2015. While Bristol’s economy has consistently grown, carbon emissions have consistently decreased since 2005 (EU 2015), but there is still more to do.  

One consultancy firm estimated that 384 Gigawatts of energy per annum could be generated by photovoltaic panels on building roofs in Bristol City (accessible at the Open Data Bristol Portal). But knowing precisely where to put these panels to take advantage of Bristol’s potential for solar generated power is a challenge.

In beginning to address this challenge, the team updated what was already known about the solar potential of buildings in Bristol. To do so, they used the Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data from the Defra Data Service Platform Agency. They used the R-SAGA Potential Incoming Solar Radiation (PISR) algorithm for calculating solar irradiance. This is on the basis that it allows for geoprocessing and terrain analysis and is optimised for the fast processing of large Digital Surface Models.

In addition to an estimate of total solar irradiance per roof, the team calculated several metrics that are useful for assessing the suitability of installing photovoltaics on building roofs. They calculated the usable roof space for installation. They also estimated the potential Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and monetary savings from installing solar panels as a measure of their impact. Finally, using a number of socio-economic factors, they calculated which communities would benefit most from these panels.

The team has finalised their project and has provided the code on Github (Part 1) Github (Part 2) for their analysis and data produced. You can find a recent presentation of their work here. They have also produced a report which outlines how they conducted their analysis and their plans for working with web developers to create an interactive web application for the public. 

The team consists of Thomas Statham, Lenka Hasova, and David Saunders.