Optimal Efficiency and Operational Cost Savings: A Framework for Automated Rooftop PV Placement

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Residential energy consumers are charged based on a utility rate structure, such as net metering or feed-in tariff. To lower consumers' electricity bills, expensive batteries are deployed to reduce the electricity fed from the grid during peak hours. However, strategic photovoltaic (PV) panel placement enables the reduction of operational energy cost while considering the spatial feasibility and efficiency for hosting rooftop PV. In this paper, we present a framework to automatically identify the optimal location of rooftop PV panels on residential buildings. Our framework integrates multiple workflows, including energy and environmental simulation, parametric modeling, and optimization to identify the ideal location of PV panels to balance the demand and supply at a building and community scale. These workflows are linked using the Grasshopper plug-in for Rhinoceros CAD software. The framework includes two different workflows, each satisfying a target for optimal PV placement: (a) maximizing PV panel efficiency, where users aim to maximize energy generation, and (b) minimizing operational energy cost, where "best'' panels are selected considering utility rates for operational energy cost. Our framework is demonstrated in a residential community in Fort Collins, Colorado, to generate the optimal PV placement for each of the two aforementioned targets. Results from the two workflows are compared to illustrate the effect of PV location and orientation on solar energy production efficiency and operational energy cost. The developed workflows are introduced as tools within the Grasshopper plug-in to investigate the solar potential of rooftop PV panels while taking into account factors such as contextual shading, utility rate structures, and buildings' energy demand profiles.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 2020
Event2020 Building Performance Analysis Simbuild Virtual Conference -
Duration: 29 Sep 20201 Oct 2020


Conference2020 Building Performance Analysis Simbuild Virtual Conference

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5500-76791


  • building photovoltaics
  • buildings
  • buildings energy supply and demand
  • community photovoltaics
  • genetic optimization
  • solar energy analysis
  • solar potential
  • solar radiation
  • urban environmental design


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