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High-Res Aerial Imagery is Accelerating Solar Growth

Posted by Tony Agresta, Guest Columnist

Jun 2, 2017 11:47:58 AM

Bird's-eye view prospecting with high-resolution imagery quickly identifies the best solar prospects and sites.Momentum 1.jpg

With one million solar installations in the nation in 2016, it’s clear the prominence of solar is expanding. In fact, the number of total installations is expected to double and hit 2 million by 2018.

Installation and maintenance of solar power arrays, with the help of emerging technologies, is easier and more cost effective than ever before, resulting in more and more homes and businesses exploring the benefits of this green resource. One of those emerging technologies, high-resolution, aerial imagery, is helping solar professionals do their jobs easier and quicker. Here are four examples of how aerial imagery is now being used when designing plans for a solar array.

Remote Prospecting

When on-site evaluations can cost a company up to $300 per assessment, with a specialty solar technician who can assess up to five roofs a day, it’s easy to see how prospecting costs add up. However, those who operate remotely with aerial imagery tools can complete a “Virtual Site Assessment” in a fraction of the time.

Metuchen, New Jersey company Momentum Solar uses Nearmap aerial imagery to assess properties from the comfort of their office. “We are growing at such a rapid rate,” said James Valerioti, Momentum’s vice president of field operations. “High-resolution imagery is the perfect solution to accommodate that growth. We have increased our weekly qualifications from 2,000 to 3,000-5,000 on average. We've also reduced the turnaround time on qualification by nearly two weeks.”

Precision Design

Designing a solar array can be a precise science. To create an accurate and efficient amount of power, technicians must know exact measurements, dimensions and optimum placement. With 2.8-inch clarity and highly accurate virtual measuring tools, high-resolution imagery takes all the guesswork out of solar installations. Using this technology, solar installers can place virtual solar panels atop customer rooftops, mitigating unnecessary risk and reducing travel time and labor costs.

By using high-resolution imagery, Momentum Solar has lowered cancellation rates, reduced rework/resubmissions on proposals and can focus on an improved customer experience. Additionally, expected energy output and shade obstructions can be easily determined by installers without site visits.

“Because we can accurately assess properties pre-sale, we go into the proposal with definite solutions and more confidence. Clients enjoy seeing what the end product will look like through panels virtually placed on the aerial images. This gives us a competitive edge,” Valerioti said.  

Reduced Software Overhead

Whether out in the field or working on a project remotely, access to digital, up-to-the-minute imagery is a must. When that imagery is accessible anywhere via the cloud, the need for complex software is eliminated.

“Before using high-resolution imagery, the qualification and assessment process required toggling between three different satellite imagery programs, and then a fourth program for panel layout,” Valerioti said. “Now, all the necessary information is in one easy-to-use program. We can decide if the property is suitable for solar within two to three minutes. The high-resolution captures reveal roof space, shading and any obstructions so we can make accurate, timely assessments.”  

Accelerating Green Jobs

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, clean energy jobs have surpassed oil drilling positions for the first time. It’s clear that the solar industry has had a significant on employment, with more than 200,000 Americans currently working in the solar industry.

That stellar growth will also be mirrored by aerial imagery companies that help expedite the prospecting, design, monitoring and integration process of solar projects.

As the solar energy industry continues to grow in the U.S., so too, are auxiliary aerial imagery companies designed to facilitate the design, prospecting, efficiency and monitoring of solar projects. These tools are designed to help save money and lower risk so solar professionals do their jobs much quicker and easier.
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