With Australia pledging net zero domestic emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, the entire focus is on how to achieve the target. In this context, Monash University researchers have been drawing parallels of sunlight in the city of Melbourne and computing the solar energy that the urban area could produce.
The researchers attempted the first-of-a-kind modelling to explore the feasibility and impact of window-integrated photovoltaics along with various other solar technologies at a city scale. The research was published recently in the solar energy journal. The team who worked on the groundbreaking research includes members of the Monash University-based ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science and the University of Lisbon. In their findings, the research team underscored that the comprehensive adoption of existing rooftop PV technology could transform Melbourne’s carbon footprint.
Central Melbourne can generate nearly three-quarters of its electricity needs attributed to solar power, according to the new modelling. The modelling considered various factors such as seasonal variations in the direction of the sun, the shadows cast by buildings, and building properties, including rooftop space and window-to-wall ratios. Plus, with the modelling, it was instituted that photovoltaics could cover nearly 74% of Melbourne’s building consumption needs. In this context, Prof Jacek Jasieniak, a co-author of the study, said the capacity of solar panels currently installed in central Melbourne was only a fraction of what was possible.
In terms of the Melbourne study, the research team mapped the 37.4 km2 area of central Melbourne. The area comprises nearly 35.1km2 that were residential and commercial buildings as of 2019. The researchers say they gauged the annual solar radiation on Melbourne’s building surfaces to find the most relevant PV installation areas. Plus, they took into account technical limitations and cost factors.
The researchers hope that by using the modelling they’ve developed, policymakers, energy providers, construction companies, and building owners will be able to optimize the PV potential of both new and existing structures.
Moreover, Jasieniak’s research group Exciton Science is collaborating with the CSIRO to develop solar windows made of a crystal material known as perovskite. Producing solar electricity close to where it is used minimizes energy losses during transmission. Jasieniak reiterated the need of a distributed network. He underscored that future building design could take sunlight and shadowing into account to maximize the potential of solar power.