Solar Map Helps Decide If Panels Are Worth Installing

MIT's Solar System software combines several sources of data to create a map that can predict the annual yield of a panel array installed at a given location.

What's the Latest Development?

MIT scientists have created software that can determine the solar energy potential of a geographic area taking into account such things as climate and building obstruction. The software, called Solar System, combines Google satellite images with Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) survey data to create a 3D model of a city that details the shape of rooftops and identifies any trees or other barriers to light reception. To demonstrate the system, the scientists mapped all 17,000 rooftops in Cambridge, MA and designed an interface that allows residents to look up their homes and see the potential value in installing a solar panel array.

What's the Big Idea?

In the past, solar maps of this type made one of two assumptions: "[E]very rooftop is completely flat, or [the] ratio between direct and diffuse solar irradiation is fixed throughout the year." By accounting for the differences, the team was able to create a map that predicted far more accurate energy yields compared to earlier versions. In the case of Cambridge, the tool showed that if all the areas considered "excellent" or "good" had solar panels installed, together they could deliver up to one-third of the city's energy needs.

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LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

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Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

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Brain study finds circuits that may help you keep your cool

Research by neuroscientists at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory helps explain how the brain regulates arousal.

Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP/ Getty Images
Mind & Brain

MIT News

The big day has come: You are taking your road test to get your driver's license. As you start your mom's car with a stern-faced evaluator in the passenger seat, you know you'll need to be alert but not so excited that you make mistakes. Even if you are simultaneously sleep-deprived and full of nervous energy, you need your brain to moderate your level of arousal so that you do your best.

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34 years ago, a KGB defector chillingly predicted modern America

A disturbing interview given by a KGB defector in 1984 describes America of today and outlines four stages of mass brainwashing used by the KGB.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Bezmenov described this process as "a great brainwashing" which has four basic stages.
  • The first stage is called "demoralization" which takes from 15 to 20 years to achieve.
  • According to the former KGB agent, that is the minimum number of years it takes to re-educate one generation of students that is normally exposed to the ideology of its country.
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How pharmaceutical companies game the patent system

When these companies compete, in the current system, the people lose.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • When a company reaches the top of the ladder, they typically kick it away so that others cannot climb up on it. The aim? So that another company can't compete.
  • When this phenomenon happens in the pharmaceutical world, companies quickly apply for broad protection of their patents, which can last up to 20 years, and fence off research areas for others. The result of this? They stay at the top of the ladder, at the cost of everyday people benefitting from increased competition.
  • Since companies have worked out how to legally game the system, Amin argues we need to get rid of this "one size fits all" system, which treats product innovation the same as product invention. Companies should still receive an incentive for coming up with new products, he says, but not 20 years if the product is the result of "tweaking" an existing one.