Parcel-Scale Assessment of Rooftop Solar Technical Potential

Ashreeta Prasanna, Ben Sigrin, Kevin McCabe

Research output: NRELPresentation


Understanding the potential for rooftop solar and other distributed energy resources (DERs) to contribute to power system planning is increasingly relevant for cities, utilities, and other planning entities. Such planning efforts typically require an estimate of technical potential, or the feasible technology potential independent of economic considerations. Currently, best-in-class rooftop solar technical potential methods use Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data which can identify each roof plane tilt, azimuth, and unshaded area. However, LiDAR data is not universally available and, even when available, obtaining and processing this data can be expensive. In contrast, parcel-level data is easy to use and widely available as it is generated by jurisdictions to levy property taxes. Such data universally reports building footprint area, which is highly correlated with roof area suitable (developable) for rooftop solar. Moreover, parcel data identifies building end-use, tenure, and other building characteristics not provided by LiDAR. To explore the feasibility of using parcel data to assess technical potential more broadly, we compare estimates using parcel data in Orlando, Florida (HIFLD 2020) to those generated using LiDAR data (Koebrich et al. 2021). We find that the parcel-based method results in accurate technical potential estimates at a block and city-scale, though only after accounting for shading and other factors that derate developable roof area. The results of this study demonstrate a scalable, low-effort approach to assess rooftop solar technical potential for every city and community in the U.S.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages18
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NamePresented at the U.S. Department of Energy - Solar Energy Technology Office, 1 October 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-7A40-80780


  • census blocks
  • LiDAR
  • parcels
  • rooftop PV
  • solar techncial potential


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