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UC San Diego Researchers Map Calif. Solar Hotspots

Pinpoint Accurate Maps Used Data From Space Shuttle Mission

Aired 11/15/11 on KPBS News.

UC San Diego researchers have analyzed data gathered by space shuttle missions to create a tool for developers of solar power.

Jacobs School of Engineering Professor Jan Kleissl and a colleague used data gathered by the space shuttle Endeavor to calculate solar power production in California.

This map shows a screenshot of the Center For Energy Research's Google Earth Map global horizontal incident solar irradiance for the state of California.

Above: This map shows a screenshot of the Center For Energy Research's Google Earth Map global horizontal incident solar irradiance for the state of California.

Kleissl used the measurements from NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission to predict how changes in elevation, such as hills and valleys - and the shadows they create - impact power output in California's solar grid.

Kleissl said current large-scale models used to calculate solar power output do not take elevation into account.

He said the maps are more accurate than other topographic maps.

"And it's more finely spaced so you can now get one datapoint every hundred feet with that shuttle map," Kleissl said. "So basically even a small hill you can actually see in that map."

Kleissl said using the maps to calculate, in advance, which areas are less affected by hills and valleys, can help planners make decisions on commercial solar projects, where the difference of one or two percent of solar output is millions of dollars.

The work was commissioned by the California Public Utilities Commission.

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