Rooftop Solar Potential

The amount of rooftops that could be used for solar electricity over the entire nation, based on size, shading, orientation, and location Rooftop potential does not equal the market or commercial potential for rooftop solar because it takes neither availability nor price into account. Instead, it represents the maximum amount of solar energy that can be installed on American rooftops.

The amount of solar that could be added on a certain rooftop depends on its size, shading, tilt, location, and structure. This potential is known as solar rooftop. In order to help consumers comprehend the prospective costs and benefits of installing solar panels on their roof, installers incorporate satellite maps, irradiance data, equipment specs, and other elements into their quotes.

Rooftop Solar Potential

Across-the-board Potential

A 2016 investigation by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimated that there are approximately 8 billion square meters of rooftops in the United States that might be covered with solar panels, or more than 1 terawatt of potential solar capacity. The potential of the nation’s rooftops could increase with higher solar conversion efficiency. About 65% of the nation’s rooftop potential is made up of residential and other small rooftops, and 42% of those rooftops are occupied by low- to moderate-income households.

According to NREL, 3.3 million homes will either be constructed or will need to have their roofs replaced annually, potentially adding up to 30 GW of annual solar capacity. The amount of solar electricity generated in the United States may increase significantly if even a tiny portion of these new roofs included solar panels.

Rooftop Possibilities

The quantity of solar that could be installed on a specific rooftop has been estimated using a number of methods created by government laboratories and commercial businesses. The tools listed below were partially financed by the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) of the U.S. Department of Energy in order to assist consumers in beginning the process of choosing solar by assessing the solar potential of their residences or places of business.


In addition to connecting users with prescreened installers who can provide estimates particular to their address, EnergySage, a past Incubator awardee, also allows homeowners, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to estimate the energy savings from solar. Users can make comparisons and choose the solution that best suits their requirements. Electricity bills are utilized to calculate the potential solar energy savings, and Energy Sage has been found to provide clients with significant savings over more traditional offerings.


PVWatts is an online calculator provided by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) that determines the energy output and cost of electricity for photovoltaic (PV) solar power installations that are linked to the grid globally. Based on an online map or user-provided data, it enables private individuals, commercial property owners, and nonprofit organizations to quickly assess the performance of proposed PV systems. The System Advisor Model (SAM), a free piece of software that allows for thorough performance and financial analysis of renewable energy systems, is another online resource from NREL.


On a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the optimal rooftop for solar, Sun Number, a previous Incubator awardee, assigns a numerical number to the solar adaptability of a building’s rooftop. A legitimate address in the area where the analysis has been done can be entered to access scores. The Sun Number score is based on a mix of elements, each of which is weighted differently to provide an accurate study of a rooftop, and it is produced from aerial data that has been processed with proprietary algorithms. Factors include the design of the roof, the buildings and vegetation in the area, geographical fluctuation, and the weather. A solar potential listing was included to the descriptions of more than 40 million homes as a result of the company’s partnership with Zillow, a provider of online property listing services.

Commercial Tools


An earlier Incubator awardee, Aurora Solar Inc., created a web-based tool that instantly determines a building’s rooftop’s solar potential. The tool evaluates and contrasts numerous potential sites using picture recognition and computer vision methods.

DISTRIBUTED Generation Market Demand (DGEN)

Through the year 2050, this program simulates consumer adoption of distributed energy resources for domestic, commercial, and industrial entities in the US or other nations. It has the capacity to examine the main variables that will impact market demand for distributed energy resources in the future. dGen will eventually be an open source utility.


A previous Incubator awardee, Folsom Labs, created a software engine called a solar permit generator that automatically create standard documentation for inspectors and authorities with jurisdiction (AHJs). These records are necessary for AHJs to approve solar installations within their purview. The program leverages Helioscope, a Folsom Labs design and engineering product, to swiftly produce the site plans, single-line diagrams, permit paperwork, and design details.

NSD (National Solar Radiation Database)

This tool gives the three most frequent measurements of solar radiation: global horizontal, direct normal, and diffuse horizontal irradiance. It also provides a serially full collection of hourly and half-hourly values of meteorological data.


Users can simulate the performance of solar energy systems with the help of the open-source software package known as PVLib. PVILB for Matlab and pvlib-python are two versions that have grown greatly as a result of contributions from a vibrant user community.

Regional Energy Deployment System (REEDS)

Based on system limits and needs for energy and related services, ReEDS simulates investment decisions for the electricity sector. Because of its high geographical resolution and sophisticated algorithms, it can accurately depict the financial and technical aspects of integrating renewable energy technology.


To achieve cost-saving, resilience, and energy performance objectives, REopt Lite suggests the ideal combination of renewable energy, conventional generating, and energy storage options.


An innovative spatio-temporal modeling assessment tool called reV enables users to determine the capacity, generation, and cost of renewable energy based on the geographical intersection of grid infrastructure and land-use features.


This free, techno-economic software model, often known as SAM, allows for the technical performance modeling and financial analysis of renewable energy projects. SAM analyzes system specifications and time series weather data to estimate prospective electricity generation. It then uses annual cash flow data to estimate a project’s levelized cost of energy, net present value, payback period, internal rate of return, and revenue.

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