While there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the Cape Wind project, solar power has found itself in a less-embattled state, especially in the city of Boston. The city’s “Solar Boston” initiative has begun work to increase the city’s solar capacity, in the hopes of making Boston a more hospitable market for that type of renewable energy.
The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and Boston Housing Authority (BHA) are working together to make rooftop solar more viable for low-income units. Already, the city’s Maverick Landing, a HOPE VI redevelopment, employs solar arrays and other green building features. The City has committed to making sure that future housing developments include photovoltaic (PV) arrays on their rooftops. Through “net metering,” these units will produce solar electricity that not only powers the building they are attached to, but that also feeds power back into the grid for a profit to the PV owner.
As both a tool and an innovative public outreach technique, the Boston Redevelopment Authority has used GIS technology to create an interactive map of the city’s rooftops. The map can be accessed via the Solar Boston page of the city’s website
The map has a number of features that help identify areas of viable solar generation in Boston. First, it shows the location of all the renewable generation sites in the city, including not only solar but also wind and hydropower. (Note: Click the images to get a better view)
In fact, Northeastern’s own Curry Center is on the map as a rooftop with a PV array:
As we can see from the map, the photovoltaic array on the building has a kW rating of 18, and was installed by Ascension Technology). Interestingly, it’s the oldest PV installation in Boston. Similar information on solar, wind and hydro power for other buildings can be found by mousing over the sun icons.
The map is also capable of showing more specific information about each site. Clicking on the “Tools” menu and then the “Select Building” tool will allow a more detailed breakdown of a specific building’s solar potential. These are the Curry Center’s statistics:
A rather key piece of information, the Potential Annual Cost Savings (the Curry Center saves $59,712 from its PV array) is also included along with capacity and a sliding scale for available roof space. Thus, the user is able to easily see the amount of money that a PV array will save if installed on the building.
The “Projects” tab allows the user to view a list of all the renewable projects happening in the city, and allows sorting by neighborhood, project name, and power generation type:
The city administration’s ultimate goal is to increase Boston’s solar capacity to 25 megawatts by 2015.