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3D Solar Photovoltaic Community Energy Modeling

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posted on 07.12.2021, 16:30 by Annie Chow
The aim of this research is to increase the assessment ability of solar energy utilization and planning support for clusters of different types of buildings in a mixed-use community. Particular focus will be placed on the analysis of community-based modeling, mapping and forecasting of solar potentials on the rooftops of buildings. New systems and methodologies with appropriate level of detail at a lower computational time are needed to accurately model, estimate and map solar energy potential at a high spatiotemporal resolution. To accomplish this goal and to develop an integrated solution, the assessment ability was investigated using two different types of studies: (1) 3D GIS modeling of a solar energy community, and (2) benchmarking of solar PV radiation software tools. A 3D GIS modeling and mapping approach was developed to assess community solar energy potential. A model was created in ESRI ArcGIS, to efficiently compute and iterate the hourly solar modeling and mapping process over a simulated year. The methodology was tested on a case study area located in southern Ontario, where two different 3D models of the site plan were analyzed. The accuracy of the work depended on the resolution and sky size of the input model. An assessment of solar simulation software tools was performed to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses for performing analysis in the PV modeling process. The software tools assessed were HelioScope, PVsyst, PV*SOL,
Archelios, EnergyPlus, and System Advisor Model (SAM). The performance of the software tools were assessed based upon their accuracy in simulation performance against measured data, and the comparison of their physical functions and capabilities. A case study near London, Ontario with an 8.745kWp PV system installation was selected for analysis, and EnergyPlus was found to have predictions closest to measured data, ranging from -0.6% to 3.6% accuracy. Based upon the GIS study and the evaluation of the six solar software tools, recommendations for the development of a future application to couple GIS with the internal submodels of the software tools were made to create the ideal tool for 3D modeling and mapping of solar PV potential.





Doctor of Philosophy


Environmental Applied Science and Management

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type


Thesis Advisor

Alan Fung Songnian Li