Design with Nearmap on OpenSolar
This module is ideal for:
Nearmap on OpenSolar Admins and Team Members
At the end of this module you will:
Be able to set up a project.
Know how to create multiple system designs both manually and automatically, using Oblique imagery to accurately position the roof.
Be able to determine the slope of a roof.
- Know how to add images to your proposal.
This is when the fun happens. You’re going to get our hands dirty without leaving our desk (or couch). So strap yourself in because this is the big bit!
You have a solar job that you’re going to quote on. You’ll need to create a project so we can start designing.
- Jump to the Projects Zone and click CREATE A NEW RECORD and enter the address. If it’s a customer you've dealt with previously, you can just “Assign existing contact”.
At this point there’s some optional administration. If your business has a dedicated administrator, he or she might complete these steps:
- Toggle Add More Details to On.
- It might be useful to add some tags to your project, set a priority, and assign it to another team member, along with handover notes.
- If you have a bill from your customer, you can select the type of bill. If not, you can leave it as default and OpenSolar will base the energy usage on its data source for the address location.
You don't have to fill this section out to proceed. And you can always add these later, before you generate the proposal.
Okay, let’s get designing!
So from here click on Create and Design and it will take you to the Studio Zone and the address that you're going to work on.
If you’re jumping into OpenSolar straight from logging in, you would simply find the address on the OpenSolar landing page (in Projects Zone) and click on the Studio icon.
Meet the studio
With your Nearmap Oblique subscription, you'll see the address from the aerial view plus all of the photos (that’s Oblique photos in Nearmap speak) from various compass directions. To start using Nearmap Oblique content, you need to be designing in FULL DESIGN mode. If you don’t see the Oblique thumbnails across the bottom, and you have a Nearmap Oblique subscription, follow these steps:
- Click ENABLE FULL DESIGN. This will enable full design mode for your current project.
- Click the Setting COG at the top right, then select Studio Preferences, and then turn off Start in Basic Mode. This will enable full design mode from now on.
- Then go to settings and select Restart Design. Now each time you log in, you’ll always be in full design mode.
To the left, you have our system design pane, which is like our toolbar. Across the top you see a tab for each system you design for this project. You can design many systems for your project. As soon as you create more than three systems these tabs disappear and are replaced by a drop down menu with each system listed.
To the right is your compass. There are some more drawing tools in the bottom right hand corner.
Panels, inverters, batteries and other components are all set up the same way.
- Drop down Panels and click SELECT. This brings up the panel database, showing your most frequently used modules (your Active modules) on the left. On the right is your database of 18000 panels.
- You can search by brand or by product code. And then, once you find the panel you want, you just hit select, and it will add itself to your active modules list.
If you can't find what you're looking for, you can create your own just by clicking Create Module. This takes you back to Control Zone and you’ll be prompted to save your project. You would download the spec sheet from Google and use the information from it to fill out the fields.
It’s the same setup for inverters and batteries, You already saw how to set up the default in Control Zone.
Click back on Studio to return to your design.
To include other components into your design that may have an associated cost of goods, such as tilt frames, or different labor installation fees from different third party installers, simply drop down Other Components and click + COMPONENT then select from the list or create a new one.
Advanced Settings is where you can recalculate your design and set up the system lifetime. For an upgrade project, you would model the existing system and indicate this as the existing system by checking the Existing System to Upgrade box. Then you would create new systems to be the upgrade designs.
Now let’s choose the pricing scheme for this customer. Click Price under Pricing & Payment Options. You can see here we have price per watt by size. Click on this to see other pricing options. You set these up in Module 2 - “Set things up”, so check back in on that module if you want a refresher. You could select the one that we set up to use: "markup percentage 20%" just for the practise, or you could select your own, if you've set one up.
Beneath this you can see your project price breakdown here, for your eyes only. And further down is where you can choose the incentives to add to your proposal. This is populated from your design. and you'll see this populate once you’ve placed some panels on the roof. You would just need to create an incentive list yourself (in the Control Zone) and you can always override it here.
Place the panels – manual way
Now you can place panels on the roof. There are two ways to do this:
- you can place panels manually
- you can let OpenSolar place them for you.
Let’s look at the manual way first.
Click plus panels at the top of your page. You can see that a panel follows your cursor. Just click and drag and place those panels on the roof. Super simple.
You know that the panel group is selected because it has a rectangle yellow rectangle outline. It’s also highlighted up on the systems tab and over on the left that it's a panel group.
Edit the panel group
- If you want to remove or add any panels, just click between the white grid lines. You can also drag across the grid lines.
- To move a panel group, head over to the toolbar, click on MOVE HORIZ, grab the yellow circle, and move this over to here.
- Change the azimuth from the left-hand pane by clicking the up or down arrow.
- You can change the orientation of the panel group, just by toggling between the portrait and landscape radio buttons.
- If, for example, you're working on a flat roof, and you don't want any shadows casting on any of the panels, you can add gaps between the x and the y axes just by entering a gap measurement or using the up and down arrows.
Place the panels – automatic way
The other way to place panels, is by outlining the roof profile and letting OpenSolar place the panels for you. This method is available with a basic subscription, but with an Oblique subscription, you have the advantage of being able to measure the slope of the roof as well.
At this point you need to know that there's a third way to measure a roof with Nearmap on OpenSolar and that is by using our DSM 3D content. We’ll look at that in Module 6 - "Design in 3D".
For now, let’s take a look at how to design your solar system using Nearmap Oblique.
- Make sure you’ll still in studio and have the address in view.
- Select DRAWING TOOLS and then ROOF. Now you'll see a blue dot is following the cursor.
- First map out the roof facet by clicking on each of its corners. Once you close that out, at the top left hand corner, you'll see a roof facet and you can also see its area. If you zoom in a little bit, you can see a red border within the facet boundary. That’s the setback 0.3 from the gutter and ridges. (You set that up in the Control Zone.)
- Remember that you can create multiple different setbacks and other design settings in Control Zone. So if you’re working in different regions with different regulations and you need to apply a different setback, just select the one you need.
- Each edge type is color-coded. You can see that it's also taking the measurement of the azimuth on the left hand side and displaying the setback value (in this case 0.3m).
- You can indicate any roof obstructions, such as chimneys and flues. Click DRAWING TOOLS > OBSTRUCTION. Then click on a flue or chimney, for example, to drop the obstruction blob onto the map. Right-click to select a different shape for the obstruction. Change the size from the left-hand panel. Once you've drawn an obstruction on the roof, OpenSolar won't panels on it.
- Now you're ready to place the panels: click within the roof facet and hit AUTO LAYOUT. OpenSolar will place as many panels as it can into the measured area, taking into consideration the setbacks, the obstructions and anything else. If you don't want a gap between the panel rows, just click on the panel group, and over on the left you can just remove that X and/or y gap figure. You can add some panels to the design, simply by clicking the empty space next to the panel.
Measure roof slope
One of the things that makes Nearmap on OpenSolar so powerful is that you can determine the slope of the roof without visiting site. And of course once you know the roof pitch you can automate costs to be applied to any pitch you deem to be steep or very steep. (We set this up in Control Zone.)
Here’s how you measure the roof slope:
- Click on a different Oblique image thumbnail - This is where the oblique images are super useful, because they let you see that roof facet from different compass directions.
You may see N, S, E, W or NE, SE, NW, SW. It depends on the route our survey flights took when they captured the images.
Once the Oblique image loads, you might see that the roof facet you drew isn’t aligned. The program will also tell you that it's not aligned here just in the bottom right hand corner.
- To align the roof to the image: from tools at the bottom right, click on ALIGN and drag just the image until the roof facet you drew aligns with the roof in the image. Click ALIGN again to confirm that it's correct and to exit Align mode.
- Align the drawn ridgeline (or apex) with the ridge (or apex) on the image by selecting the edge (or node). Check the left-hand pane to ensure it says Edge (or Node). Click MOVE UP/DOWN. Now grab the arrow and align it with the line of the ridge (or apex), then click MOVE UP/DOWN to confirm.
- Click on the roof facet and you can see the slope measurement. And if you've got a steep pitch range of 25 to 40 set in your control settings, the customer will be charged out for your work on the steep pitch roof.
- So if you're happy with that, and you want to include this image in your customer proposal, you can click the show customer checkbox just up on the left, and then a little Show Customer banner will appear on the image thumbnail. All images with this banner will be included in the proposal.
- If, for example, you wanted to model an existing system as it looked when it was installed several years ago, no problem. You can access Nearmap’s full catalog of vertical imagery. Click Historical Vertical Imagery and then just browse back through the historical imagery.
Add a panel group
To add another panel group, for example, if you have some spare space on the roof, you can do that just by clicking on plus panels and dragging them in.
You can change the orientation using the Portrait/Landscape radio buttons, if you need them to fit. You can see that OpenSolar displays each panel group and the total number of panels it contains. Click on a panel group and you can see the information in the left pane reflects the panel group you've selected. So if you want to make any changes, you're only making changes to the specific panel group you’ve selected.
Add a battery and inverter(s)
- Name your design.
- Try adding a battery.
- Drop down Batteries in the left-hand panel.
- Click + BATTERY and select your battery.
If your inverter modeling set to automatic (in Control settings) OpenSolar picks the right amount of inverters for the amount of panels that you’ve chosen. And it does the stringing for you.
I think you've done it. You've set up your first system – the first design option for your customer.
Add a system
How about you create a second system option for your customer?
- All you need to do is click + System > New System from the system tabs across the top.
You’ve already done the ground work measuring the roof, so all you need to do is lay different panels, or array the panels in a different way.
- Hit SELECT, and choose different panels.
- Click on AUTO LAYOUT.
You might want remove some of those panels so both systems are comparable with the same number of panel systems.
- Give this system a name.
So now you have two designs. So you can see here one has a battery and an inverter, the other one only has the panels. If you want to do your own stringing, you can you can set that to manual under the Inverters drop down. That is an advanced operation that we aren’t covering here. There is a link in the Extra Resources section to more information on OpenSolar's support site.
To save the design, click on the cog at the top right, and hit SAVE DESIGN.
Your design is done. We hope you can see how flexible the OpenSolar application is and how Nearmap imagery can really help you accurately position solar panel arrays and save you a site visit.
Now it’s time to send the proposal. This is the next module in this series. While you’re there, you’ll find links to OpenSolar articles and ways to sign up to OpenSolar’s regular newsletter and deep dive webinars.
This was a big session and you covered a lot of ground, so pat yourself on the back, have a breather, have a practice and come back to go through the next module.