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3-D Simulations

Joe Schultz eLearning & Multimedia

Solar Shade Model

The Specs: To receive the full rebate amount from Xcel Energy Colorado, a photovoltaic installation needs to have little or no shade. In this example, there are several objects near the installation site that cast shadows. Since the space on the roof is limited, and the shadow-casting objects are irregularly shaped, it is necessary to closely evaluate the best placement of the panels on the roof to maximize sun exposure.

The Solutions: Build 3-D computer-based model of the photovoltaic installation including the shadow-casting objects. By simulating the sun angles at various times of the year, the panel placement can be optimized in this virtual environment.

Advantages to the 3-D shade model are:

  • The shadows can be simulated at different times of the year. You can see exactly where the shadows will fall, and what time of day you have unobstructed sun across the entire installation site.
  • Panels can be moved around in the virtual environment and the shadow simulation can be run for various times of the year allowing you to discern the optimal placement for minimizing shade on the panels.
  • By discerning the best panel location early in the planning process, you can avoid costly last-minute changes.
  • Unlike other shade assessment tools, like the Solar Pathfinder, the Solar Shade Model produces a visual representation of shadows that can be easy understood by the property owner. This will help assure them their shade issues have been addressed thoroughly and proactively.
  • The simulation can show how the shadows change when nearby foliage has dropped it's leaves.

Technical Notes:

  • The 3-D models were built using AutoDesk 3D Studio Max.


3-D Shade Model movie showing the Summer and Winter solstices