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Mapping sun’s potential to power New York

Using a plane equipped with a light detection and ranging (LIDAR) laser system, New York City recently mapped the shape, angle and size of each of the city’s more than one-million rooftops.  The map is available at the City University of New York’s website.  It shows that almost two-thirds of the city’s buildings could accomodate solar panels.  If all had panels, they could generate about 6,000 megawatts, which would meet almost half of the city’s current peak daytime demand, or 14% of the city’s total yearly electricity use.

Of course, putting solar panels on so many roofs presents many problems, including streamlining bureaucratic inspections and approvals, lowering the upfront costs of installation, training and licencing enough competent installers, and having utilities adapt their electrical grid to accept solar power.

Despite the obstacles, the New York City has already identified several “solar empowerment zones,”  where solar energy would be the most beneficial.  Within these zones, the map will offer roof-by-roof information to help planners to find and assist owners build the city’s new clean energy infrastructure. GR

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