Start-up applies Big Data principles to solar installations

Posted by Justin Hesser on November 20, 2013

Big Data is taking to the skies. Literally.

A new start-up is applying sophisticated information analysis to the construction of solar structures. Using databases and web-based tools, Sun Number is helping millions of households determine how eligible they are to get energy from roof-mounted panels.

The software works by gathering data about a particular area, including surrounding buildings, tree heights and roof angles. Ryan Miller, the company’s co-founder and its chief technology officer, described some of the information that goes into their determinations.

“With our three-dimensional model, we will get the roof characteristics, orientation, shading from vegetation, shading from buildings — all of the things that impact the local solar conditions — and we bring in some regional climate factors and that ultimately goes into the score,” Miller said in an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Once Sun Number has mapped out a metropolitan area, residents can log into the website and plug in their address. The software will give their house a score on a scale of zero to 100, based on how much sun they can expect to get on their rooftop. Any score of above 70 qualifies the owner as a good candidate for a solar installation.

This appraisal is free of charge, as the business is currently supported in large part by a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Sun Number is currently in eight locations, with plans to expand to over 20 more in the coming months, including New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

While this program hasn’t reached every state yet, the principles behind it can be applied anywhere. If you’re a Connecticut Filemaker Developer looking to make a difference in the field of alternative energy, consider a similar local project.