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April 2012

The Geographic Information System (GIS) Team at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) encompasses a broad range of scientific research and reporting activity in support of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), NREL programs and initiatives, and the GIS community. The purpose of this quarterly newsletter is to feature recent projects, highlight new tools and announce datasets available for download. You are receiving this message because you have subscribed to our mailing list.

Featured Projects

Thummbnail of the 10-km TMY3 boundries map.

Roof Top Photovoltaics Analysis

GIS Analyst Jenny Melius is working on a rooftop analysis project to determine the potential rooftop space available for solar panel installation. She runs the first-return raster against the slope, aspect, and hillshade tools in ArcMap to get 1-meter resolution rasters of available rooftop space. Each of those rasters are reclassified into "good" areas for PV installation (typically less than 45 degrees slope, south/southwest/southeast facing rooftops, and in sunlight at least 6 months of the year during specified hours). She is then combining those three outputs into a master file to identify areas of at least 10, 20, and 30 square meters that meet the specified set of criteria.

The final product for any given city is a table containing the percentage of available rooftops and rooftop area that may potentially provide a good space for PV installation based on a variety of different slope, aspect, and hillshade inputs. It will essentially be a choose-your-own-adventure of picking out the slope/orientation/shade/size requirements that you want to look at and the spreadsheet will tell you what the approximate amount of rooftop space is available based on those requirements. Completion is still 6-12 months away.

Economics of Tracking Verses Fixed Tilt Photovoltaics

Thummbnail of the 10-km TMY3 boundries map.

Energy Analyst Eason Drury and GIS Analyst Anthony Lopez are using PVWatts to estimate PV module capacity factors (capacity factor is a unitless variable, that represents the ratio of electricity that could be generated by a PV system relative to the maximum electricity that would have been produced if the system had operated at peak capacity during an entire representative time period) using the Perez weather files.

In this study, they are evaluating the economic competition between fixed and tracking PV systems. First, they characterize fixed and tracking (1-axis and 2-axis) PV performance in the U.S. for crystalline silicon (c-Si) PV modules at high spatial resolution (10x10km2) for 8 years (1998-2005) in the continental U.S. They are using additional energy generated by tracking PV systems relative to fixed-tilt systems to evaluate the breakeven costs of tracking components based on regional solar resources, fixed-tilt PV system prices, and the additional cost of maintaining tracking systems. This analysis is used to identify U.S. regions and tracking to fixed PV price points where 1-axis and 2-axis tracking systems may be competitive with fixed tilt systems. The results of this analysis will be published in a journal article in the Fall.

Featured Tools

Thummbnail of the RE Atlas interactive online spatial application.

In My Backyard (IMBY)

The NREL DAV Group has released an updated version of the In My Backyard (IMBY) tool which estimates the electricity you can produce with a solar photovoltaic (PV) array at your home or business. Homeowners, businesses, and researchers use IMBY to develop quick estimates of renewable energy production at locations throughout the continental United States, Hawaii, and northern Mexico. IMBY uses a map-based interface to allow you to choose the exact location of your PV array. Based on your location, system size, and other variables, IMBY estimates the electricity production you can expect from your system.

This updated IMBY version will be replaced in the next two-three months with a new tool combining the functionality of PVWatts and IMBY.

Contact IMBY project lead Dan Getman if you have questions about this tool. The images demonstrate the application.

Thummbnail of the RE Atlas interactive online spatial application.

Marine and Hydrokinetic Atlas

Hydropower already provides 6-7% of the nation's electricity, and the ocean represents a largely untapped renewable energy resource with potential to provide clean electricity to coastal communities and cities across the United States. There is significant opportunity for water power to provide large amounts of clean and renewable power. The Water Power Program is invested significantly in comprehensive analysis of ocean energy potential for future electricity production.

In early 2012, the Water Power Program released reports that assess the total technically recoverable energy available in the nation's waves, tidal streams, and non-powered dams. The program plans to release additional program-funded assessments of ocean current and ocean thermal resources in addition to conventional and hydrokinetic terrestrial hydropower resources in 2012. Preliminary results of these assessments show that water power resources, which include both marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) energy and hydropower, could deliver 15% of our nation's electricity supply by 2030.

The Marine and Hydrokinetic Atlas maps the wave energy resource and ocean thermal energy conversion. This atlas will host other ocean energy data sets in the future. Users can pan, zoom, and filter data of the ocean's energy potential. Data is available for all U.S. coastlines and includes Alaska and Hawaii.

Contact GIS Analysts Donna Heimiller or Nicholas Langle if you have questions on this tool.

GIS Webpage Updates

The following data and maps have recently been posted:

  • Geothermal: A qualitative assessment of geothermal potential for the U.S. was added to our Data Resources webpage.

  • Wind: 80m wind maps added to our Wind Maps webpage.

  • Solar: An easier to load poster-size PV solar map was added to our Solar Maps webpage.

For the latest updates on information regarding dynamic maps and GIS data, visit the
Dynamic Maps, Geographic Information System (GIS) Data and Analysis Tools,
NREL Data and Visualization Tools, or NREL Developer Network website.

If you are having trouble with our email version, please access our Web version April 2012.

Questions? Contact

The GIS at NREL newsletter highlights all the GIS activities in support of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies research at the laboratory. Features include recent projects, new tools, and available datasets. You can subscribe to this newsletter using our simple online form, and you can also unsubscribe online.

NREL is a national laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, operated by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC NREL U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC