Mapping the future of the marketplace throughout New Hampshire.
According to SolarCity, one of the nation’s largest residential and commercial solar companies, they have recently entered the New Hampshire marketplace. “SolarCity will make it possible for many New Hampshire homeowners to install solar with no upfront cost and pay less for solar electricity than they pay for utility power, even without including local incentives” (SolarCity). SolarCity has already begun taking orders and they expect to be doing installations for customers this month. They have solar panel leasing and financing programs that allow customers to generate solar energy. This major player in the solar market is supported by Google, Elon Musk, Founder and CEO of SpaceX, as well as other major backers.
Being neighbors with this renewable energy outfit (their NH headquarters is in Manchester, NH and we have an office in Somersworth, NH), we got to thinking about the solar marketplace in NH and its long-term viability. As a room full of meteorologists, data scientists, and computer programmers tend to do, we decided to take the question head on. We built a Solar Power Production index (“SPP”) to better understand the amount of solar radiation in the state and map this data to identify the best – and worst – regions for potential solar power production.
Of course, SolarCity’s business is not led by solar power alone. As a consumer-facing company, they are subject to the challenges and opportunities that come with the retail marketplace. Like many of our own customers, SolarCity is impacted by a range of factors beyond the weather. Density of likely customers, disposable income and credit to front the costs are but a few variables that might affect the success of a takeover of the NH energy market. As a proxy for viable business opportunities, we fused our Solar Power Production index with NH state economic and demographic data to identify best-fit opportunities for marketing and distributing SolarCity’s products.
To begin, we mapped the Solar Power Production index for each city and town in New Hampshire based on 15 years of solar climate data – which includes irradiance levels coming directly from the sun as well as scattered throughout the atmosphere. Built into this index are temperature and other non-sunshine related variables that might impact the productivity of a given panel (for example, periods of extreme heat tends to reduce the amount of energy produced by a panel). We used a few well-known Department of Energy algorithms to determine the typical conditions per location based on 15 years of data.
The ranking system to determine the areas more suitable for the solar marketplace was based upon three different variables: SPP, Income, and Population. We used the 2013 State of New Hampshire public data for population and median income (data from city and town profiles from the New Hampshire Employment Security website) to match up with the individual cities and towns.
The figures below display our findings for each step. Our heat maps indicate which places are the overall best – or worst – targets for SolarCity – a result we call “NH SolarCity Readiness.”
(Note: The areas with no data available on the map are townships and territories in NH not recognized as cities or towns.)
- Top 5: Solar
- New Durham
- Top 5: Population
- Top 5: Income
- Hampton Falls
- Top 5: SolarCity Readiness
- Hampton Falls
Overall, the southern part of the state of New Hampshire is the strongest candidate for solar energy providers such as SolarCity. Interestingly, there was a strong correlation between the municipalities with the highest populations and median incomes and highest levels of solar radiation. More than a spurious correlation, we know from experience that the sunny seacoast has been a great place to settle and thrive in!
While solar is still far from the mainstream in the state, NH is among the states with the highest electricity rates in the country. With the opportunity for NH residents to look skyward to help reduce the costs of electricity and make solar a much larger part of the power supply there is a good base to go after in this marketplace. While New Hampshire may not rank as high in solar energy production as high-performing states such as California, Nevada, or Arizona, there is certainly room for growth. If we were consulted on this project for SolarCity (we’re standing by the phones, SC!), we’d recommend Bedford, Windham, Hampton Falls, Stratham, and Newfields as initial launches of the program to gain the biggest early adoption.
Weather Analytics helps businesses and organizations see weather differently by highlighting the impacts of the weather on operations and providing decision support solutions. Quite often, the value of weather data comes not through the data itself, but how it is modeled, fused, or analyzed. That’s why we call ourselves Weather Analytics. In the case of SolarCity, we welcome our new neighbors to New Hampshire with a way of seeing NH weather differently.
Blog post contributors: Sean Daigneault, Justin Bloom, Emmett Soldati, Kristen Jewett.