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A review of the solar city concept and methods to assess rooftop solar electric potential, with an illustrative application to the city of Seoul


  • Byrne, John
  • Taminiau, Job
  • Kurdgelashvili, Lado
  • Kim, Kyung Nam


Energy economy restructuring at the city level is an essential prong in any strategy that aims to address the dual energy and climate change challenges. Cities form hubs of human activity that are accompanied by high levels of energy consumption and emissions but also contain existing resources and infrastructure to transition to a greener energy economy. This paper reviews efforts to date to define the ‘solar city’ concept and assessment methods for estimating the solar electric potential of an often neglected but vital city resource in energy matters – its rooftop real estate. From this review, an application of the solar city concept is formulated and an assessment method is offered for its investigation. An illustrative case study is provided, using the City of Seoul, South Korea. Representing nearly one-quarter of South Korea’s population and a one-third of its economic activity, the application of the solar city concept to the city can have significant consequences for the future energy development pathway of the municipality and the country (the metropolitan area of Seoul encompasses nearly one-half of the national population). The research demonstrates that a technical potential equivalent to almost 30% of the city’s annual electricity consumption can be supplied by widespread deployment of rooftop-based distributed photovoltaic systems. Using the methodology developed in the paper, we estimate that sixty-six percent of the annual daylight-hours electricity needs of the City of Seoul can be served by distributed solar power systems on a typical day. It is additionally found that considerable peak shaving is possible, lessening the pressure on the city’s electricity grid. These findings can be expected to extend to other large cities when the solar city concept is thoughtfully applied.

Suggested Citation

  • Byrne, John & Taminiau, Job & Kurdgelashvili, Lado & Kim, Kyung Nam, 2015. "A review of the solar city concept and methods to assess rooftop solar electric potential, with an illustrative application to the city of Seoul," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 830-844.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:rensus:v:41:y:2015:i:c:p:830-844
    DOI: 10.1016/j.rser.2014.08.023

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. John Byrne & Job Taminiau & Kyung Nam Kim & Jeongseok Seo & Joohee Lee, 2016. "A solar city strategy applied to six municipalities: integrating market, finance, and policy factors for infrastructure-scale photovoltaic development in Amsterdam, London, Munich, New York, Seoul, an," Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 5(1), pages 68-88, January.
    2. repec:eee:rensus:v:77:y:2017:i:c:p:760-782 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:enepol:v:106:y:2017:i:c:p:122-128 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:eee:rensus:v:75:y:2017:i:c:p:1198-1206 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Kurdgelashvili, Lado & Li, Junli & Shih, Cheng-Hao & Attia, Benjamin, 2016. "Estimating technical potential for rooftop photovoltaics in California, Arizona and New Jersey," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 286-302.
    6. repec:eee:rensus:v:77:y:2017:i:c:p:916-923 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. repec:eee:energy:v:151:y:2018:i:c:p:332-346 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. repec:eee:energy:v:142:y:2018:i:c:p:384-399 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Hong, Taehoon & Lee, Minhyun & Koo, Choongwan & Jeong, Kwangbok & Kim, Jimin, 2017. "Development of a method for estimating the rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) potential by analyzing the available rooftop area using Hillshade analysis," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 194(C), pages 320-332.
    10. John Byrne & Job Taminiau, 2016. "A review of sustainable energy utility and energy service utility concepts and applications: realizing ecological and social sustainability with a community utility," Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 5(2), pages 136-154, March.
    11. repec:gam:jeners:v:10:y:2017:i:5:p:686-:d:98543 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. repec:eee:rensus:v:77:y:2017:i:c:p:566-579 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. repec:eee:energy:v:160:y:2018:i:c:p:213-224 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. repec:eee:rensus:v:83:y:2018:i:c:p:18-32 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. repec:eee:appene:v:232:y:2018:i:c:p:640-656 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. repec:eee:appene:v:217:y:2018:i:c:p:189-211 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Nasrollahi, Nazanin & Shokri, Elham, 2016. "Daylight illuminance in urban environments for visual comfort and energy performance," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 861-874.
    18. Amanlou, Yasaman & Hashjin, Teymour Tavakoli & Ghobadian, Barat & Najafi, G. & Mamat, R., 2016. "A comprehensive review of Uniform Solar Illumination at Low Concentration Photovoltaic (LCPV) Systems," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 1430-1441.


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