Developing cities seeking to assess their policy and financing options for rooftop photovoltaic (PV) power generation can benefit from the increasing sophistication of rooftop PV simulators. This report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) examines the evolution of solar PV simulators, from single-rooftop assessments at the household level to large-scale, aggregate-level analyses undertaken by municipal authorities and other large entities. Larger-scale simulator applications, typically preceding the establishment PV incentive programmes, help to determine the optimal power mix and ensure the long-term viability.
The report also highlights the growing range of accessible, free online solar simulators. In the past, the significant costs and need for expertise to develop such simulators limited their use to advanced economies with well-established electricity markets and a strong research culture. However, the technology landscape has evolved, and solar simulators can now be deployed to maximum benefit anywhere in the world at an affordable cost.
IRENA’s work on solar simulators aims to encourage further dialogue on energy planning in the urban context. This study also reinforces the case for greater use of proven data-driven techniques to create actionable, pragmatic policy and economic solutions. Solar simulators offer a clear example of how such techniques can enhance the energy sustainability of cities in developing countries.