German Solar Prize 2009 goes to Sun-Area

Steinbeis researchers investigate the potential of solar energy

Eurosolar, the European Association for Renewable Energy, bestowed the annual German Solar Prizes in Karlsruhe in October 2009. One of the award winners was Prof. Dr. Martina Klärle, head of the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Geoinformation and Land Management and professor of geoinformation and municipal technology at Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences. This is the first time a German Solar Prize has been bestowed to a geoinformatics project.

The Sun-Area research project led by Martina Klärle won the German Solar Prize 2009 in the category of Education and Research. Klärle received the award from Hermann Scheer – president of Eurosolar, member of the German Federal Parliament, and a past winner of the Right Livelihood award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize. In his address, Scheer described how the award winners are now role models: their work accelerates the transition from fossil fuels and nuclear energy to the exclusive use of renewable energy sources. “Renewable energy is more than just a vision – it’s being put into practice all around us. The proof? Not just the award winners, but the number of submissions we received – over 200. People everywhere are finding both conventional and innovative ways to drive the energy revolution forward,” said Scheer at the awards ceremony.

Sun-Area uses high-resolution laserscanning data to analyze all roof surfaces in a given area. This makes it possible to determine the best locations to install photovoltaic systems and thermal solar energy systems. The method automatically calculates the energy potential of a city or district, showing every suitable roof surface as part of a “solar land registry”.

Klärle and the Sun-Area team have developed a practical tool for combating climate change which encourages the use of renewable energy. The city of Osnabruck was the pilot region for the project. Since then, seven more German cities have made use of Sun-Area, including Wiesbaden and Gelsenkirchen. But it’s not just major cities that are showing interest in the new technology: rural areas also want to get on board and do their part to combat climate change. In 2009, the LEADER campaign groups for the Central Black Forest and Neckar-Odenwald-Tauber districts commissioned the Sun-Area team to create a solar land registry for 82 municipalities in the state of Baden-Württemberg. Sun-Area analyzed over 123,000 buildings in the Neckar-Odenwald-Tauber district alone – an enormous amount of data. The study revealed that 22% of roof area in the district was suitable for generating solar power. If this area were fully equipped with photovoltaic systems, it could generate 180% of the district’s private energy consumption. The analysis for the Central Black Forest region revealed similar results. At the moment, less than 1% of energy used in Germany is generated from solar power.

To determine the potential solar energy gain, Sun-Area analyzes the roof’s angle of slope, alignment, and the amount of shade. For each subsection of the roof, Sun-Area then calculates its suitability for solar power generation, its potential energy yield, the resultant CO
2 saving, and the investment required to install a photovoltaic system. Using a web-based geographic information system (GIS) application, the results are then displayed on an interactive map which is available to both the general public and local government authorities.

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