Solar installations are becoming a no-brainer for anyone with a roof in much of the country. But getting an estimate on how much it would cost and how much juice it would generate can be complicated and time-consuming. Aurora Solar has made an automated process for doing this, and attracted $20 million in funding as a result.
A big part of the uncertainty anyone has about getting solar installed is the upfront cost and return on investment. An on-site visit may cost hundreds, or thousands for a commercial property, or that cost may be rolled up into the overall charge. But why send someone out when all the data you need can be acquired in bulk from the air?
Aurora uses lidar data for this — but not the kind of lidar where you have to fly a drone with the instrument over the house. That would hardly be less expensive and time-consuming than a normal visit. Instead they use lidar collected by small aircraft making low-altitude passes over the city.
The resulting data (you can see it above) produces detailed 3D models of the terrain and all the buildings on it; the exact size and slope of a roof can be determined with high precision. It’s actually similar in a way to how archaeologists used it to map out an ancient Mayan metropolis.