Major cities could be close to self-sustaining through fully integrated solar

Jay Owen Community Development Solutions, Resource Efficiency

Source: ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science

New modelling, on a scale ranging from individual structures through to neighbourhoods and an entire city, has shown that buildings in the City of Melbourne could provide 74% of their own electricity needs if solar technology is fully integrated into roofs, walls and windows.

Published in the journal Solar Energy, the research, led by members of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science based at Monash University, together with collaborators at the University of Lisbon, is the first of its kind anywhere in the world to model the viability and impact of window-integrated photovoltaics, alongside other solar technologies, at a city scale.

The results indicate that comprehensive adoption of existing rooftop PV technology alone throughout the city could radically transform Melbourne’s carbon footprint, significantly reducing its reliance on grid electricity generated by burning fossil fuels.

Further gains could be made through the widespread deployment of emerging, highly efficient ‘solar windows’ and photovoltaic technology integrated in building facades.

The researchers hope that by using the modelling they have developed, policy makers, energy providers, construction companies and building owners will be able to optimise the PV potential of both new and existing structures.

The researchers compared Melbourne’s 2018 electricity consumption to the electricity production that could potentially be achieved through fully and widely building-integrated solar. Consumption data from Melbourne’s CBD was obtained from Jemena, CitiPower & Powercor distribution companies and was accessed through the independent Victorian research body, the Centre for New Energy Technologies (C4NET).

At city-scale modelling, they found that photovoltaics could provide 74% of Melbourne’s building consumption needs. Rooftop solar would constitute 88% of this supply, with wall-integrated and window-integrated solar delivering 8% and 4% respectively.

Wall and window-integrated solar technology was shown to suffer less of a reduction in efficiency during winter months relative to rooftop solar, delivering more consistent year-round benefits and value.

The potential contribution of window-integrated solar rose to 18% at the neighbourhood scale, reflecting high building heights and window to wall ratios.

The researchers determined the annual solar radiation on Melbourne’s building surfaces to identify suitable areas for PV installation, taking into account technical limitations and cost factors. Continue reading