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Modeling light for installing solar panels in urban settings

Modeling light for installing solar panels in urban settings

tech innovation 2022

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering investigate shadow modeling for solar panel placement and beyond. credit: Andres Arias-Rosales

Solar panel installation in cities requires a setup tailored to the complex geometries of urban locations that provide each panel with the most direct sunlight. Shadow modeling is one of the processes in designing the most efficient setup.

The cost of solar photovoltaic systems (more commonly, solar panels) has dropped drastically over the past decade. Through a combination of environmental considerations and economic viability, solar panels are being installed in more places and used in larger projects. The demand for solar panels in everyday use means they are being installed as part of modern city construction.

Traditionally, solar panels are installed in large arrays in wide-open spaces where they can absorb as much sunlight as possible for as long a day as possible. As cities grow and expand, they will need more electricity, and it will be useful to install solar panels near populations that need electricity. Installing solar panels in urban environments also removes them from the open fields where they compete with farms for space.

Installation in cities requires a solar panel setup to suit the complex geometry of urban locations to provide each panel with the most direct sunlight. Among the processes for designing the most efficient setups for solar panels is shadow modeling, which has the potential to create millions of scenarios – that it would not be possible to test physically – to maximize energy collection from solar panels. The technology has potential beyond solar panel placement, such as measuring light levels for urban farming and heat levels for building designs.

Urban shadow modeling is the process of simulating a cityscape in a 3D modeling engine and calculating the shadow cast by the Sun. This allows engineers to find areas with the least amount of shade and to tailor the placement and angle of each solar panel to allow them to capture the most sunlight. Research at Carnegie Mellon University, headed by Andrés Arias-Rosales and Philippe Ledec, professor of mechanical engineering, has studied several approaches to beam modeling. Conclusion is published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Review.

The paper is one of a series of researches working to combine the biological concept of swarm theory with increasing demand and efficiency (how individual organisms such as ants can operate as a swarm that compare individual parts). are far more complex) with increasing demand and efficiency. Solar panels by the general population. “There are some very exciting emerging markets in the manufacture of integrated photovoltaics and vehicle-integrated photovoltaics,” said Arias-Rossels, a Ph.D. he said. student in mechanical engineering working with LeDuc, and the brains behind this project. Andres also mentioned potential applications for solar panels on the roads or on large drones.

To realize this vision, Arias-Rossels began building a new modeling framework that can efficiently track the shadow cast by the Sun as it moves across the sky and vehicles, people and drones form a densely packed space. Walk around the city. They studied four different ways of detecting the harsh shadows cast by the sun in different settings, from loosely populated urban environments like La Crescenta-Montrose, California, to densely populated cities like New York.

The four methods tested in the research were:

  • Rasterization and pixel count in a virtual photograph to measure the area affected by the Sun; This is the most accurate but most computationally intensive method.
  • There are two types of ray tracing, which use vector analysis to determine surface area hits. Forward ray tracing measures rays from a light source and calculates how many of them hit the solar panels. It is extremely computationally intensive, but as the most straightforward method, it was used as a baseline. Concentrated ray tracing measures the rays from the solar panel and sees how many hit the Sun; It’s much faster than rasterization and still fairly accurate.
  • A purely analytical approach, in which geometric modeling and linear algebra were used to calculate how much of the Sun was blocked by buildings between the solar panels and the Sun.

This last method was by order of magnitude the fastest but doesn’t work as well in more complex environments or environments with lots of things in motion.

Which method is best for measuring cast shadow?

“It depends on the exact application you’re working with,” Arias-Rosales said. The analytical approach was by far the fastest and most accurate approach. However, implementing this approach is extremely complex, and requires prior and accurate modeling of all objects in the environment. The focused ray-tracing approach is a very fine balance, as it is far more efficient than the rasterization approach and is only slightly less accurate. The rasterization method is not very useful unless the environment becomes very complex, because the rasterization method, unlike other methods, does not slow down the more objects in the environment, even though the method is very slow.

These new modeling techniques are not only applicable to solar panels. This technology has potential in many modern applications, such as temperature modeling for environmentally conscious design, such as buildings should not be affected by direct sunlight and therefore cutting costs on air conditioning or planting trees in public places. Determining so as to make them cold. Or using solar panels to capture sunlight and generate shadow. Another application is to use this shadow modeling to design public gardens as urban farming becomes more and more popular as people become more self-sufficient and environmentally conscious.


Solar power satellite to collect bright sunlight


more information:
Andrés Arias-Rosales et al, Shadow modeling in urban environments for solar harvesting devices with freely defined positions and orientations, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Review (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.rser.2022.112522

Provided by Carnegie Mellon University Mechanical Engineering

Citation: Modeling Light for Solar Panel Placement in Urban Setting (2022, 21 June) Retrieved 21 June 2022

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Modeling light for installing solar panels in urban settings

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