NREL’s Open PV project

Posted on April 18, 2010


Just when I had started working on creating a SHW database for India, I come across this awesome open-source PV database/map. Not only has this encouraged me to keep working on the SHW database but also given me a couple of ideas that helped clear my head and how I should go about the SHW database.

National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) recently released the ‘Open PV Project’ which is basically a database of PV installations in US. It tracks number of PV systems installed by zip code, county and state, cost of the project before incentives and amount of power each system produces. I really love the fact that it is an open source mapping project and invites contributors from the community to add their installed systems to this database. Engaging the community and sharing the task is key to creating such a database.

Trends: (based on installations in the Open PV database):

Trends show that PV gained momentum in the US only in the last 3-4 years. Reasons for this can be attributed to the decrease in cost of installation from $11/W in 1998 to $7-$8/W in 2010 and the increase in the number of state and federal incentives.

It is no surprise to see California leading the country in the number of installations to date. It is also evident from the stats that  4-10kW systems are the most commonly installed sizes accounting to 46% of the total followed by 2-4kW systems at 38%  indicating that residential PV systems are at the forefront of the market.


A note on Visualization :

This is a great example for visualization, the dashboard is kept simple and easy to follow. The map colors makes it easy to identify states with highest PV installations vs. states with no PV installations. Though it takes more effort to read the rotated vertical axis titles on the line and bar graphs as they are rotated to face away from the graph. Hopefully they turn it around.

The contributors map lists, as the name suggests, contributors from each state along with their profile, statistics and contact information.

My Wishlist:

I would like to see a similar dashboard to track solar hot water (SHW) systems. It is cheaper and efficient to install SHW’s than PVs and typically most residences install a SHW system before sizing and installing a PV system.

I think it makes sense to add another category : building type. I would love to see how much of the installed PV is on residences vs. commercial or institutional or parking lots etc.. This way, we can pin point opportunities in under-served building sectors and  also chart trends for the same.


Posted in: Solar, Visualization