Tag Archives: diy

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Solar Mapping Resources

Solar Energy Maps

Below is a list of Tools that can be used as helpers  and resources for planning your Solar Projects before you dive in. 

Cost for Solar Energy cells keep dropping and efficiency goes up, Good news for someone who is interested in acquiring “Free” energy after paying for the original capture installation.

Solar Mapping Resources

Solar Energy Mapping Resources
Solar Energy Mapping Resources

Choosing solar energy is a big investment.

In order to help consumers quantify the potential benefits, national laboratories and private companies have developed a number of tools to forecast their solar futures.

Solar Energy uses Irridance
Solar Energy uses Irridance

Satellite maps, irradiance data, and real-time bids from installers have been combined to assist customers in understanding the potential costs and benefits of solar with just the click of a button.

The examples below help consumers start the process of choosing solar by demonstrating the solar potential of their homes or businesses.

Energy Sage

Energy Sage, another SunShot Incubator awardee, allows homeowners, businesses, or nonprofit organizations to estimate their energy savings from solar, and connects them with prescreened installers who can provide estimates specific to the user’s address.

Users can comparison shop, and select the system that fits their needs best. Electricity bills are used to demonstrate the potential savings from solar energy, and Energy Sage has been found to offer customers substantial savings over more conventional products.


Geostellar measures user’s solar potential based on satellite maps of their property, and will estimate the financial benefit of such a system based on the user’s electricity bills. 

Users can compare financial products to determine the payback of a system, see applicable state and federal incentives, and consult with agents to find a system that best meets their needs and wants. Geostellar is a SunShot Incubator company.


Mapdwell’s Solar System is an open, online rooftop-solar remote assessment tool that allows any community on Earth to discover their underlying solar resources.

It reveals the solar potential of building rooftops through state-of-the-art, hyper-precise, advanced technology developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Communities can use the solar system platform to provide their residents with highly detailed information about the potential of their rooftops or want to better understand their solar resource and increase their solar deployment.

OpenEI Solar Mapping Tools

The OpenEI platform is a wiki, similar to Wikipedia’s Wiki.  Users can view, edit, and add data – and download data for free.

OpenEI works to provide the most current information needed to make informed decisions on energy, market investment, and technology development. 

On the solar resource page, OpenEI provides maps and links to connect users with solar installers and projects in their neighborhoods. 

The platform also connects users to tools like PVWatts and the System Advisory Model, which can be used to estimate solar generation and savings.


PVWatts is an online too from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that estimates the energy production and cost of energy of grid-connected photovoltaic (PV) energy systems throughout the world.

It allows homeowners, business owners, and nonprofit organizations to easily develop estimates of the performance of potential PV installations, based on online map or user supplied data.

San Francisco Energy Map

The San Francisco Energy Map provides developed by an overview of solar and wind energy resources for the city of San Francisco, along with corresponding links and resources to help residents better understand our renewable energy resources, and learn how to install their own renewable energy system.

The program displays existing solar photovoltaic (PV) and water heating installations in the City. Users can also estimate their rooftop’s Solar PV potential, annual system output, associated energy savings, and annual greenhouse gas emissions mitigated.

Other links provide cost estimates of installing a solar PV system, ways to find a solar installer, and get more detailed information.

Sun Number

A SunShot Incubator awardee, Sun Number gives a numerical score which represents the solar suitability of a building’s rooftop on a scale from 1 to 100, with 100 being the ideal rooftop for solar.

Scores can be accessed by entering a valid address in a region where the analysis has been completed.

The Sun Number score is created from aerial imagery that is processed with proprietary algorithms to accurately analyze individual rooftops, and based on a combination of factors, each weighted uniquely to provide an accurate analysis of a rooftop.

Factors include roof shape, surrounding buildings surrounding vegetation, regional variability, and atmospheric conditions.

All information shared from  Energy.Gov  at http://energy.gov/eere/sunshot/solar-mapping-resources


Learn and Share and we will all get there.

Underground Greenhouses or a Walipini

Underground Greenhouses are

Missing in Tennessee

Underground greenhouses  or Walipini seem to be missing in Tennessee  as  illustrated by the apparently more desired above ground type . 

Here is a picture of the above ground greenhouse at the University of Tennessee Agricultural Institute which looks more like a factory than a greenhouse. 

Greenhouse UTIA
Greenhouse UTIA

Other than the case of three men who lived in Trousedale County, Tn in 2005 underground greenhouses seem missing.  The men managed to build caves under their house approximately 250 feet long and equipped them with grow lights for their underground “Pot” farm.  

Because of their misfortune in borrowing extra power directly from the power lines and a subsequent  run in with the utility company they were arrested. 

These above ground  greenhouses are not as useful to people in under developed countries who prefer something called a Walipini in Bolivia. 

Of course the UTIA greenhouse  is used by the students as a class room, but is still all above ground and not taking advantage of the heat storage available to underground greenhouses.
Contrast it with the Walipini in this video! 

The ones made in Bolivia are sunk into the ground so that the earth can absorb the heat produced by the sun passing through the plastic top. Plastic is used  as it is much less expensive than glass, also much easier to apply and doesn’t mind earthquakes.

Since digging a hole is much less expensive than constructing walls, the Walipini  is immediately a much less expensive undertaking.   Many are scrapped together with what ever material can be scrounged for or recycled from other buildings.

There are  Walipini being constructed in Europe, Nepal and many other countries. 

One very interesting Walipini was in Romania built by a man who wanted to grow citrus trees.  

Americans tend to build as a lean to on a barn  as this one in Minnesota was done.  There is also a kindle book with a program called The Zero Energy Thermal Mass Greenhouse / One Hour of Free Video Instruction.  

An American has shared his construction videos  beginning with video  1 through video 4 .  Here is the first, when he was doing the heavy digging. 

His soil is very rocky and a pick axe was necessary to do a lot of the digging.  Also, he didn’t dig the whole underground greenhouse floor as low as some that are shown elsewhere. 

However he reduced his workload by leaving a shelf of dirt to place pots and growing flats on.  Some diggers dug it out, then put the soil in barrels and used the top of them as a shelf….

Now on to Video 3 as you can  follow what he is doing in each video.

Harder work than you think.  But beginning to look like a real greenhouse.  Much neater than the greenhouse below.  However,  the one below is a true thermal sunken greenhouse built using the thermal greenhouse plan referenced  above.  

From what I read in several places is that it is better to keep the air space above the hole as small as possible so that extra heat generated is stored by the earth surrounding the hole.

 The Greenhouse above used the dirt dug out of the hole to fill drums with dirt to go under the tables and along the walls to provide extra mass for heat storage during the day.   

Since they do not  heat this greenhouse in the middle of winter they tend to grow cold tolerant plants like broccoli and cabbage later in the season.

Sunken Greenhouse or Walipini… what ever you call it, if built right can provide extra food for a small investment in building materials. 

Everyone seems to modify any plans they use to match their particular soil and location and preference as to what kind of planting arrangements they want to use.

From the above video is an excerpt from the video description about the origin of the Walipini. 

On Nov. 27, 2009, my dad, David Allan, gave an extemporaneous presentation on the Walipini greenhouse methodology. One of the main principles involves embedding the greenhouse in the earth to take advantage of the earth’s constant temperature, to store the solar energy collected during the day. The Walipini was first developed more than 20 years ago by the Benson Institute in Provo, Utah; deployed in South and Central America. The success of those projects has spurred the parent organization, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to help sponsor deployment of the technology worldwide.

Deep Winter greenhouse featured by MPRNews is interesting because they used recycled gutters as hanging plant boxes.   The Tree Hugger features a very detailed description with pictures of the Walipini and shows a much deeper penetration into the ground making the roof almost level with the ground as it was in the first video.  In places where you have limited rainfall the slope of the roof can be much less. 

From what I understand, if you live in an area of  high winds, then the lower your profile, the better.  Except roofers will tell you that high pitched roofs deal with high winds better, the difference is that the lower roof conserves heat more efficiently.   Please leave a comment below if you enjoyed our trip  and share.


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