LiDAR-based solar mapping for distributed solar plant design and grid integration in San Antonio, Texas

Tuan B. Le, Danial Kholdi, Hongjie Xie, Bing Dong, Rolando E. Vega

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This study represents advancements in the state-of-the-art of the solar energy industry by leveraging LiDAR-based building characterization for city-wide, distributed solar photovoltaics, solar maps, highlighting the distribution of solar energy across the city of San Antonio. A methodology is implemented to systematically derive the tilt and azimuth angles of each rooftop and to quantify solar direct, diffuse, and global horizontal irradiance for hundreds of buildings in a LiDAR tile scale, by using already established methodologies that are typically only applied to a single location or building rooftop. The methodology enables the formulation of typical meteorological data, measured or forecasted time series of irradiances over distributed assets. A new concept on the subject of distributed solar plant (DSP) design is also introduced, by using the building rooftop tilt and azimuth angles, to strategically optimize the use and adoption of solar incentives according to the grid age and its vulnerabilities to solar variability in the neighborhoods. The method presented here shows that on an hourly basis DSP design could provide a 5% and 9% of net load capacity support per hour in the afternoon and morning times, respectively. Our results show that standard building rooftop tilt angles in the south Texas region has significant impact on the total amount of the energy over the course of a day, though its impact on the shapes of the daily energy profile is relatively insignificant when compared to the azimuth angle. Building surfaces' azimuth angle is the most important factor to determine the shape of daily energy profile and its peak location within a day. The methodology developed in this study can be employed to study the potential solar energy in other regions and to match the design of distributed solar plants to the capacity needs on specified distribution grids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number247
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Distributed solar plant
  • LiDAR
  • Renewable energy
  • San Antonio
  • Solar mapping
  • Texas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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