We see more and more automation and use of software in the solar industry. Nowadays you can draw a solar panel installation plan on an aerial photo with various software packages, and then offer a complete solar system within minutes. And that’s good news. Solar panels can thus be provided much more efficiently and at competitive prices, while the installer maintains a healthy profit margin. But how reliable are the laying plans made remotely? And what are the consequences if the installation plan designed in the software does not fit in practice?
Frustrations when a laying plan does not fit in practice
Although more and more installers rely on laying plans made in software, this also causes problems. Imagine: you have created an online design, sent a quote to the customer, and that has been agreed. Full of good cheer, your installation team with 15 panels is in front of the door, only to find out that only ten panels fit on the roof. That changes the case! Your promise to the customer cannot be kept, which leads to a lot of frustration. Is your team going home in a more relaxed way? Or do you only install ten panels at a discount? In any case, this leads to a lot of frustration and costs.
Why a solar panel installation plan does not by definition fit
Why does this regularly go wrong in software? This has to do with two things: (1) the perspective of the aerial photo and (2) the determination of the roof angle.
An aerial photo is always reasonable to scale, but unfortunately never taken exactly right from above. When a plane flies over, a new picture is taken every few hundred meters. Afterward, those photos are stuck together to form one whole. Every aerial photo, and even every part of it, therefore has a different perspective. The further you come to the edge of the picture, the skewer the view. Because other software packages do not take this into account, things often go wrong here. Even if you can manually straighten the panels for a good looking picture, this does not take the right perspective into account! If you treat every photo as if it is straight from the top, you will go wrong. With all its consequences…
An airplane takes a photo of the surroundings from one point, which means that the perspective differs in different directions
In practice: every red dot is an actual aerial photo recording. The blue lines indicate the aerial limits. If we zoom in on a building on the edge of such a border, we see a highly distorted perspective.
Secondly, there is the determination of the roof angle. This is crucial when signing up to scale. The solar panels that you subscribe must be sized at the same roof angle as the actual roof. Are you entering the wrong roof angle? Even then, you go crazy. Unfortunately, determining the roof angle in most software packages is cumbersome. For example, a street view photo must be used. This takes time and, moreover, the street view is not always available.
How Solar Monkey ensures that your installation plans always fit in practice
Exactly how we do it remains the blacksmith’s secret, but we have developed a solution with a combination of aerial photos, 3D elevation data, and a few quick math heads. We ensure that the perspective of the picture is calculated precisely, and the panels are scaled accordingly. Besides, the roof angle is calculated automatically. Below two examples from Solar Monkey:
In this case, you see that the sidewall is visible so that you immediately recognize that the photo was taken at a large angle. The panels must be fitted to the building in the right perspective. As soon as you turn the panels in Solar Monkey one way, they immediately jump into the proper perspective on the roof. Simple and effective.
This second case is a lot more insidious. The photo was taken a right over the building from the north. This makes it seem as if the north side of the roof is much larger than the south side, while in reality, this is not the case. Without correct correction, you would miss out on this. In Solar Monkey, the scale of the panels adjusts automatically, and you can see that on both roof surfaces four panels fit from top to bottom. Beautiful!
And that roof corner? In most cases, this is automatically determined for you based on the 3D height data. That way, you can get started right away, and we make it as easy as possible for you because it is so lovely if you can fully trust your software.
We launched this functionality in January 2018. What impact has this had on our customers? We ask Bart Boelens from ESS zonnepanelen, who also has experience with other sign-in software: “It used to happen that I regularly made a laying plan to find out that it did not fit on the day of installation. It was incredibly annoying, both for the customer and for ourselves! Now we have certainty, which gives confidence in sending the quotes. ”
Not yet a Solar Monkey customer? Do you want to see this with your own eyes? Request your free demo below.