In 2009, we remember late professor Mojdeh Baratloo sharing about her work mapping solar potential of rooftops in New York City. The work was conceptual then and open-source data was in the early stages. But last week, Mapdwell, a collective of academics and researchers from M.I.T., launched the site Solar System, which maps solar rooftop potential in eight American cities, including New York, Boston, Washington D.C. and San Francisco, as well as two cities in Chile. The interactive map allows you to select specific buildings and will calculate the cost of installing a solar system (including tax credits), the number of years it will take to pay back the investment, the revenue per year, and the carbon offset.
The map uses 3-D elevation data that accounts for the shape of building rooftops, existing infrastructure on the roof and even foliage, to an accurate level within ±5%. The Full Stats available on Solar System show that New York City has significant solar potential, with over 13.3 million mega-watt hours of photovoltaic potential per year sourced from 1.08 million buildings in the city. As reported by Fast Company, “For those unfamiliar with energy terms like those, that’s equal to powering 1.2 million homes while offsetting the carbon emissions equivalent to planting more than 185 million trees, or $40 billion in business potential.” And as Fast Company reports, “New York is a big solar market because of a combination of tax credits, incentive programs, and decreasing hardware costs,” according to Mapdwell CEO Eduardo Berlin, though complex ownership structures within buildings may limit possibilities.
We decided to take the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a test using default settings. If the museum were to tap into the solar potential of its 597,000 square foot roof, it would cost $23,408 (after $47,611 in tax incentives, abatements and credits) and would make $3,579 per year. It would take 6.5 years to pay back the investment.
This is not the first solar map, however–the NYC Solar Map is a project by the New York City Solar America City Partnership, with support from CUNY, PlaNYC and and the NYEDC, and Google just launched Project Sunroof as well, available in San Francisco, Boston and Fresno.