Design in 3D with Nearmap on OpenSolar
This module is ideal for:
Nearmap on OpenSolar Admins and Team Members
At the end of this module you will:
- Understand what DSM is
- Know how to design in 3D
- Understand how to perform shading analysis on a design and how to add obstructions.
Using Nearmap’s digital surface model and OpenSolar 3D, you can see exactly where the shadows fall on your solar panels any month of the year, any time of day.
In this module you’re going to discover how to switch on and use OpenSolar 3D, including analysing shading and accessing accurate and detailed performance data.
What is DSM?
With Nearmap’s Oblique Addon, you also have access to Nearmap’s DSM. DSM is our 3D digital surface model content – available at the same high coverage, high accuracy and update frequency as our Oblique imagery. DSM represents the earth’s surface and includes all objects on it. It contains elevation data that allows us to automate a 3D model of the roof for super accurate shading and production estimates.
You can choose to do all your system designs using 3D. Under the hood with 3D, OpenSolar uses the SAM (or System Advisory Model), which allows more detailed and accurate performance predictions and cost of energy estimates than the PVWatts calculator used in 2D design.
With 3D you can:
- Add optimizers and micro-inverters to your design
- Add bi-facial modules
- Account for inverter clipping
- Factor in the temperature coefficient of the panels.
In practice, if you start in 3D design mode, you need to keep designing in 3D to have access to the shadow analysis tool.
How about we take a look?
- Head to Projects Zone and create a NEW PROJECT then enter the address – it'll default to residential.
- If you want, you can enter contact details. Then click CREATE & DESIGN and you'll land in Studio Zone with the address imagery loaded.
NOTE: You can only access 3D design in Full Design Mode. If you can't remember how to do this, check back in on Module 3 - Design with OpenSolar.
- As your project loads, you’ll see the oblique thumbnails and the vertical thumbnail across the bottom (as you’ve seen before).
Activate OpenSolar 3D by sliding the toggle. When you do this, three things happen:
- A 3D DSM model loads, if the address is in our 3D coverage area (You can check our 3D coverage areas using the interactive coverage map on our website. Go to nearmap.com/coverage)
- You see the DSM thumbnail alongside the other thumbnails.
- The system advisory model is enabled. The System advisory model, or SAM, is a software model for renewable energy systems. It calculates energy output differently from the standard OpenSolar interface.
The first thing you notice is the DSM looks like a melted scene. That’s okay. It’s meant to look like that. Besides, you don’t need accuracy down the sides of structures, just on the tops where the panels are. And, don’t worry, your customers don’t get to see the Digital Surface Model. It’s only there for your design and shadow analysis.
You can view the roof from different angles. You can look and see if there are any obstructions.
- Right-click into the image and then drag your mouse around to rotate the scene.
- Roll your mouse wheel to zoom in and out, or use the - and + buttons at the very bottom right below the DRAWING TOOLS button.
You’ll find that placing panels using 3D is a rather automatic process, since the digital surface model is, in fact, a 3D model of the roof. So size, slope, azimuth, obstructions are all there. You just need to check that you’re placing the panels on the right roof facet – on the north facing roof in the southern hemisphere and the south facing roof in the northern hemisphere. Not sure where north or south is? Check the compass at the top right.
To lay the panels, all you do is you follow the usual process of clicking plus panels. OpenSolar automatically detects the slope and the azimuth that you're working on. You can simply just place the panels individually, or by scrolling across.
If you need to measure the roof facet, say to determine setback, click DRAWING TOOLS > ROOF, then draw out the facet by clicking at each vertex. If you can't remember how to do this, check back in on Module 3 - Design with Nearmap on OpenSolar.
In the left-hand panel you can adjust the X and Y gaps, as well as the clearance. Clearance is the distance between the roof surface and the bottom panel surface. This dimension is more obvious when working with 3D.
Check the design is aligned to the 3D model
To check whether your design is aligned to the roof, click on the Vertical thumbnail. Note that, given 3D design is enabled, you won’t be able to edit anything in this vertical view (you can only edit in your 3D DSM view). In this case you can see the panels and roof outline are not aligned to the view. To fix this, click ALIGN from the bottom right and drag the map until the panels and outline match the roof image. Click ALIGN again to exit align mode.
Select images to display in proposal
Now check Show Customer to include this image in your proposal and the thumbnail will now be flagged accordingly. If you want to include another image in your proposal, for example, a South-east view, click the South-east thumbnail. Note that you can't include the DSM view in the proposal. This view is for your design and analysis only.
Now that those panels are on the roof, you can easily determine if the property is a good solar candidate by doing a quick shading analysis.
- Make sure you're looking at the DSM content. If not, click on the DSM thumbnail.
- Click on the panel group.
- On the toolbar, select the Shading dropdown. Here you see the shading analysis tool.
This graph shows the times of day that the sun is up, and then the months of the year. So in the screen shot below you can see that the customer’s roof is pretty much getting sun 100% of the day, all year round. Happy days. This is the ideal solar customer!
You can click in any time-slot in that coloured chart and you’ll see the path of the sun’s rays. Each ray is shown per 6 cells of a panel, so the information is very detailed. The colours reflect percentage bands of sun's rays, with red being no sun, and different oranges and yellows being varying percentages of sun. Green is 100% sun. As you’d expect, you see different shadows at 5pm than at 8am.
You can drill into the yellow times and see what's causing that obstruction. Right-click, zoom around, maybe pan out, and see if you can identify what's causing the obstruction on this roof. In this example, I've clicked the yellow "52" at 7am in November. Here you see that the red lines are representing the sun's rays that would otherwise hit the solar panels but are obstructed by the other roof section.
As these panels are 20-year systems, you can try to project whether any vegetation might become an obstruction in the future. Take this bush in the screenshot below. You can effectively turn it into a tree.
- Click DRAWING TOOLS > TREE and place the tree onto the scene. Allow the system to recalculate.
- Back in the shadow analysis you can see those red rays. They're the rays that should be going to the panels but are obstructed be that tree in the winter months, in the middle of the day.
Now you can have a conversation with your customer advising them them the tree will need to be pruned so they can make the most of their solar system.
With OpenSolar 3D, you can perform some detailed analysis on the system generation, consumption and export to grid. Just click the Show Detail button at the top of the toolbar. Use the slider to view the chart data throughout the months of the year.
Once you have 3D on, OpenSolar will warn you if the inverter in your system design is oversized.
Click the System Losses button beneath the data chart to analyze system losses from shading, reflection, snow, wiring and much more – both overall and per inverter, if applicable. And your calculations account for inverter clipping and the temperature coefficient of the panels.
Your proposal and any reports you generate for projects you create in 3D will pull in the more accurate data derived from the SAM model, rather than the PVWatt data.
If you have any existing projects not modeled with 3D, calculations for those will still be shown in PV Watts. You can switch them to 3D by dropping down Advanced Settings in the toolbar and selecting OpenSolar 3D.
Finally, it might be helpful to know that OpenSolar 3D is a design tool offering superior data and calculations, but at present there’s no way of sharing those cool visualizations with your customer in a proposal. It is currently for your eyes only.
Pretty cool, huh? So now you can unleash the power of 3D into your solar designs. And this brings us to the end of our Nearmap on OpenSolar getting started series.
Thanks for sticking with us through these modules. They are here in the Help Centre for you to revisit whenever you need. You might want to work through them again as you set up Nearmap on OpenSolar for your own business. And remember there are heaps of resources on OpenSolar’s support site as well as on Nearmap’s Help Centre.
Have you completed all 6 modules?
Please take a couple of minutes to rate this series and leave feedback. It'll help us understand what you need and improve our courses. In the near future we'll provide a post-course questionnaire.Resources
Got more questions? We've got answers
We want you to feel at home with your new Nearmap on OpenSolar subscription. Explore this Help Centre for quick answers or more in-depth technical articles. Or, check out our partner product docs on the OpenSolar Help Centre. You can also schedule some face time with your customer success manager. We’re here to help — don’t be shy!
- We have a small collection of Nearmap on OpenSolar technical articles in the Help Centre.
- Register for the weekly OpenSolar webinar series: .
- Contact your Customer Service Manager.
If you're really stuck or you think something's not working as it should, you can Submit a Support Request.