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Using Google Sketchup to Visualize Array Shading

Google Sketchup, a free 3D drawing tool for PC and Mac, can be used to accurately lay out solar modules to avoid shading for a selected geographic location and any time of the day or year.

Many people are users of Google's 3D drawing tool, Sketchup. What many solar designers don't know is that Sketchup can be used to draw a solar array, place it in a specific geographic location and then see the effects of shading on the array over the course of a year. Here are the specific steps to view your array in Sketchup:

  1. Download and install the free Google Sketchup program.
  2. Take advantage of hundreds of free 3rd party and Google created tutorials to feel comfortable with the Sketchup interface.  
  3. Draw your own solar array, or download and modify one from the 3D Warehouse built into Sketchup.
  4. Site the array on or near its planned location using the Google Earth plugin
  5. Use the Shadows tool to visualize shading of the array for any time of the year.

Comments

What an amazing tool, thanks for the instructional video.  Can you provide the link to the publicly available database of pre-built solar panel objects that you can import into a visualization?  I saw in the video that you did a search of options, where did you pull that from?  Thanks.

Jeff,

The 3D Warehouse is built into Sketchup. It's under the file menu. There are hundreds of module and array models - the user just does a key-word search to narrow the field. Remember to recognize the original creator and to observe their copyright, if any.

Will permitting authorities accept Google Sketch-up outputs for solar array designs as part of the permit packet?

Jon,

If I remember correctly, you're based out of the Eastern Cascades - those authorities will accept just about anything not scratched on bear hide. Just kidding... Yes, Sketchup drawings are fully dimensionable and can be printed in flat plan or elevation view as well. If you want to go Pro with Google Layout ($500) then you can generate full plansets and export as Autocad compatible DWG files.

Check this out: http://www.skelion.net

It is a new PV layout plugin for google sketch-up that insert the modules for you with just a click. The Pro version generates PVWatts reports as well.

It is a great tool!

Regards,

Skelion,

This is a fantastic tool. How can we get in touch with you to learn more?

You can contact me support'at'skelion.com. We are working in the auto shading detection, so Skelion will fill up the face without shading after you select the criteria design (eg. at least 4 hour of sun on December 21st). It has other options for ground mount systems.

Here's a free solar PV layout tool for SketchUp: BrightHarvestSolar.com/array-o-matic

All the top selling US modules are included and it comes with illustrated step by step instructions for creating quick layouts using images from Google Earth.