PV Agreement Uses GIS Data to Pinpoint Solar Sites

Colorado’s solar options may well benefit from a recent agreement between the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Xcel Energy to develop software for evaluating siting options for off-grid and grid-connected commercial rooftop solar electricity-generating systems in the state.

Using NREL’s Renewable Planning Model (RPM), the software will link NREL and Xcel Energy’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data to map the utility company’s facilities, loads and consumption. This GIS data will be overlaid on top of the NREL’s GIS data for solar resources, land ownership, land usage and satellite images. “This partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory demonstrates our continued commitment to create opportunities for the development and growth of renewable energy for our customers in Colorado, as well as the rest of our service territory,” said Richard C. Kelly, Xcel Energy president and chief executive officer. “We look forward to a tight collaboration with NREL, merging their recognized expertise with Xcel Energy’s drive for innovation to create new capabilities for solar siting in our service territory — and beyond.” Xcel Energy, which plans on investing more than $250,000 in this project, estimates that it will need 18 MW of solar power in place by 2007 — at least half of which must come from on-site, customer-owned generation facilities — to meet the solar component mandate for renewable energy in Colorado. Statewide standards for the installation of photovoltaic (PV) systems must be in place by the end of March 2006, although Xcel Energy is working to complete this regulatory process earlier. The model will also access several of NREL’s cutting-edge energy production models to determine cost-effective technologies, preferred locations and correspondence to local usage patterns. Following successful development of this software, models may be developed to evaluate other renewable energies, including wind and other solar applications.
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