Solar mapping technology rolling
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
Steve Gelsi is a reporter for MarketWatch in New