Oct 30, 2019 - Energy & Environment

Using AI to track solar power

Five cities in California have the nation's highest density of homes with solar panels, while Detroit has the lowest, according to new analysis that uses AI to track solar deployment via high-resolution aerial imagery.

Reproduced from Cape Analytics; Chart: Axios Visuals

What they did: Cape Analytics analyzed visual data on tens of millions of homes in major metro areas nationwide by working with partners like the location data company Nearmap. That enabled a fine-grain analysis of residential solar power at a neighborhood level.

Why it matters: The firm intends its localized data to help policymakers better understand where solar power is being adopted and why — and help homeowners understand if they can get state-specific incentives for going solar.

  • Solar power currently provides roughly 2% of U.S. electricity, and while it's growing fast, advocates hope to see even faster deployment.
  • Cape Analytics marketing head Kayvan Farzaneh tells Axios the company is "not in the business of selling solar panels, but of course we're supporters of renewable energy."

What they found: Every "super solar" neighborhood in the U.S. — those with over 500 homes and solar systems — is in California, except for one in Saint Petersburg, Florida, which is 13.2% solar.

  • Dallas and Miami have nearly the same number of sunny days per year, but Florida has more tax credits and incentives for going solar than Texas.
  • And while California is far and away the nation's solar leader, Cape Analytics' data shows how its distribution there is uneven.

The big picture: Cape Analytics examined the entire U.S., Farzaneh tells Axios. The company has access to addresses of nearly all homes in America, Farzaneh said, and currently works with many U.S. property insurance companies.

  • "We’re the first in the insurance industry to be doing this, at this kind of scale … as far as I know," Farzaneh said. Cape Analytics supplies home insurance providers with AI-extracted data on roof conditions, overhanging trees, pools, and other factors that could affect insurance policies.
  • In creating this new report, Cape Analytics says it did not use specific home addresses. The company's aerial imagery partners gathered data from neighborhoods as groups.

Go deeper: Solar power systems spike in homes, businesses and industrial plants

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