As solar energy continues to become more available, more Americans are getting on board with the idea of taking their power off the grid and embracing more sustainable sources like solar panels.
But with that decision comes a lot of research. Individuals must find out just how expensive it might be and how much money installing solar panels actually saves, which can be a costly process if it involves seeking professional consultation.
Mapdwell, born out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), helps individuals determine solar potential of their properties using massive data sets across cities including Washington, D.C., Boston and Cambridge, Mass.
The company taps into LIDAR data from aerial mapping flights to produce one-by-one meter resolution 3D models of landscape including the shape of a roof and surrounding greenery.
With up to 8,600 data points to illustrate, the maps then provide a rating of solar potential based on analysis and historical weather data. Users can also share visual components of the data with a systems installer.
“We had to show you all the information, which can be overwhelming, but you need to have it if you really want to make a decision,” CEO Eduardo Berlin tells Fast Company. “Many times designers want to communicate the minimum amount of information to get you interested. But in this case, it’s different.”
Mapdwell lets users simply enter their address to access the information, as well as helping design custom solar systems based on metrics such as price, energy and environmental impact.
“The challenge is: How can you get people interested? How can you get people informed and excited with all these little things that we can do. If I do it, and you do it, and your neighbor does it, it could really have a huge effect,” Berlin says. “…You can really empower change within a community by people having all this information — if you manage to get it to them.”
The technology is only available for a select few cities right now, but the company is planning to expand, as well as design similar systems for rainwater collection, small wind energy installations and green roofs at a city level.
While solar energy still only accounts for less than 1 percent of the country’s electricity, the potential of transitioning more people off environmentally harmful fossil fuels is evident. With the help of companies like Mapdwell, the process can move more quickly.