Tools for solar energy developers in the USA

All solar energy developers are aware of the advantages that tools such as Google Earth offer to search suitable sites for the development of solar energy projects.  Here we list several additional databases that any solar energy developer operating in the United States of America (USA) requires. 

Transmission grid. The Global Atlas for Renewable Energy available at the IRENA web presents a worldwide database including information on transmission grid, substation and generators

Solar irradiation data.  The IRENA web also includes data on solar irradiation with a resolution of 3 km.  Other alternatives sources to obtain solar irradiation data in the whole USA territory are NSRDB, NASA-SEE, Meteonorm y Solar Anywhere.

Site property. In the USA, sites can be federal, state or private owned.  Federally owned sites can be identified at FEMP.  The availability of a database for state properties depends on each state, e.g. Arizona.  Site ownership data in USA territory is generally available at the counties' websites, e.g. Maricopa county in Arizona.  In addition, there are other databases that cover the majority of the USA territory such as Parlay or Mytopo.  Contact details of the site owners can be found through websites such as whitepages.

Environmental constraints.  FEMP provides environmental information applicable to sites within USA territory including: environmental constraints, national parks, indian reserves, flora and fauna information, and brownfields.  

Flood riskFEMA is a public database containing flood risk information developed with the support of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Economic feasibility analysis.  The economic feasibility of solar projects in the USA can be assessed with the open-source tools PVWatts and SAM.

The impact of energy certificates in the real state value

On 20 June 2013, the Commission published a study on "Energy performance certificates in buildings and their impact on transaction prices and rents in selected EU countries". The study shows a positive impact of the Energy Performance Certificate under the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (Directive 2010/31/EU) on sales and rental prices indicating that better energy efficiency is rewarded in the market. In one of the first studies of its kind to include an analysis of residential markets in Europe, it was found that higher energy ratings result in substantially higher sales or rental values of buildings on average in most of the Member States that were analyzed.

The Spanish market is not included in this study, as the obligation to hold an energy certificate has been recently approved and there is not yet enough data to assess its impact in the real state market. However, the conclusions of the study for neighbor countries such as France revealed that an improvement of the household energy efficiency leads to a 4% increase of its market value.

Coming soon… Europe’s largest tidal array

The Scottish government has awarded planning consent to the Europe's largest tidal array, located in the Pentland Firth, a strait located between the coast of the north of Scotland and the Orkney islands.

The tidal array will be developed by the business group Meygen. Meygen plans to deploy up to 400 tidal turbines at the Inner Sound Meygen, where water depths and current velocities are suitable for the deployment of tidal turbines at a commercial scale.

On the first phase of the project, 86MW of tidal turbines will be deployed. Meygen expects to install the tidal array in stages, starting with a 9MW demonstration project of up to six turbines. Meygen suggests that the site could eventually fit a total power capacity of 398MW. Read more

However, recent studies have revealed that these figures of power installed capacity in the Pentland Firth, in this case the Inner Sound, might be overestimated. In any case, the results and experiences from the first tidal array will definitely boost the tidal technology and reduce the uncertainties in the sector.