Algorithm for Optimal Solar Placement

Computing & Wireless : Computing Methods

Available for licensing


  • Michael Webber , University of Texas at Austin
  • Joshua Rhodes , University of Texas at Austin
  • Charles Upshaw , University of Texas at Austin

Background/unmet need

The market value of all U.S. photovoltaic installations completed in 2013 was $13.7 billion. Currently, when fixed solar photovoltaic arrays are installed, the default placement is due south, as that is the rule-of-thumb for maximum energy production. However, using real local data, inventors have shown that this rule does not work for all locations, and other placements can generate more energy.

Additionally, if the local electricity prices change throughout the day (time-of-use rates), array placement can be optimized to take advantage of higher rates; i.e., to produce more valuable electricity. An array that produces less energy might in fact create more revenue. This optimal placement algorithm is different for every location.

Invention Description

The invention is an algorithm that uses local solar, weather, and economic data to provide the optimal azimuth and tilt for a given location. This data can be used in the actual installation of solar arrays, and the updated expected output can inform project payback calculations. This will result in accurate and detailed information for users.


  • This algorithm helps make solar arrays more profitable.
  • The algorithm requires no additional installation costs.


  • The invention is currently coded in the widely used statistical programming language R.
  • The code can compute all placements for a given location or quickly find the optimal values via an optimization routine.

Market potential/applications

Utilities, solar leasing, solar installation, energy/grid planning, large retailers (large solar installations), builders/developers

Development Stage

Beta product/commercial prototype

IP Status

  • 1 U.S. patent application filed