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Solar mapping technology rolling out

CH2M Hill wins $6 million contract to map 25 cities

Oct 11, 2008 - Steve Gelsi - MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Home and business owners in 25 cities will soon be able to punch up the solar energy potential of their own rooftops on a free Web site, under a new mapping program rolling out with backing from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Englewood, Colo.-based engineering giant CH2M Hill, which rang up $5 billion in revenue last year and lists 23,000 employees, won a small but noteworthy contract of $6 million to provide raw data on solar power potential under the U.S. Solar America Initiative.

The contract pays for expansion of the city of San Francisco's recently posted solar energy map using aerial imagery and combined with advanced 3-D modeling, available for public access and viewing through a Web portal. Punching an address into the city's search engine pulls up data on the estimated amount of solar photovoltaic energy that could be installed on a specific roof, potential electricity cost reduction, and potential carbon dioxide/greenhouse gas reduction.

The Web site also provides information on installing a photovoltaic system, including contact information for local solar installers.

David Herrmann, client solution directors CH2M Hill, said the mapping program could potentially replace the current method of assessing solar energy potential.

"Right now, to get a solar assessment on a roof, you have to call up the solar installer, they bring their ladder, a guy wonders around on your roof, and two or three weeks later you get a report," Herrmann said. "With this technology, you could do it accurately and quickly without having to roll a truck."

Hermmann said the company's solar maps use a format from Google Maps to display the data, but that CH2M Hill collects the images through its own proprietary process with Esri Inc. supplying technology for the effort. The solar map is also compatible with Microsoft's Virtual Earth display, he said.

Hermmann said the Internet mapping business remains healthy, with companies routinely paying for airplane flyovers to provide panoramic shots of streets and building around the U.S.

He noted that Microsoft bought Vexcel Corp., a worldwide leader in photogrammetry, imagery and remote sensing technologies, in 2006 to boost its mapping capabilities.

The 25 cities that CH2M Hill will be working with alongside the DOE include: Denver,; Houston, Philadelphia, San Jose, Calif.; Santa Rosa, Calif.; Seattle; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Austin, Texas; Berkeley, Calif.; Boston, New Orleans, New York City and Tucson, Ariz. End of Story

Steve Gelsi is a reporter for MarketWatch in New York.{BCA9F458-1FAD-4FDD-B84C-205F5A44E3A6}


Updated: 2003/07/28