Unexpected Bright Spots for Solar Energy in the Nation's Capital

This blog post was written in conjunction with UrbanTurf, the authority on real estate in the Nation’s Capital, and can be found here.

Solar power is coming to DC… but not where you would think

Silectis used public building permit data from DC’s open data portal to determine which neighborhoods in Washington DC really care about the future of solar energy.

The Future of Solar Power in DC… Capitol Hill?

Capitol Hill leads Washington DC neighborhoods in embracing solar power.  There is surprisingly little concentration of solar panel installation activity in the rapidly re-developing neighborhoods of Shaw, Logan, Dupont, and southern Columbia Heights.  These are the neighborhoods where DC buyers are fighting to pay over asking price for the trendiest finishes and furnishings, but why are they not buying in on solar?  Is green energy not hip? Or are these residents not interested in waiting for the long term gains promised by solar?

The more traditional and historic neighborhood of Capitol Hill is not only the neighborhood with the most solar permits, but the number of permits has more than doubled each year for the past three years.  Are the residents of Capitol Hill more focused on renewables or are they just leading the charge (ahem) for the rest of the city?

Solar Building Permits by Year.png

The Science behind this Data

Silectis is a data analytics company. We make it easy to for organizations to leverage the power of big data to become data driven.  The interactive map below was created using our data lake tool, Magpie, to collect and analyze data from DC’s open data portal.  DC, along with many other major cities, makes large tranches of city data available for the public.  This includes tax information, city revenue information, educational stats, crime numbers… and building permit applications.  This data is often cumbersome to analyze, stored across disparate file formats. Using Magpie, Silectis is able to rapidly collect and analyze this type of data. We automatically refresh the data in Magpie provided by DC, so our analysis can include new permits as they become available.

the Permits and the Data

DC posts building permit information on its open data portal.  Included in the permit applications are permits for solar panels at commercial and residential locations, which Magpie can identify using the “permit type”. Silectis can see other useful information about solar installation in DC by analyzing the other fields. Silectis identified the neighborhood using the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) field and can see if a permit has been approved or completed. For many of the permits Magpie can pull out kWh and number of panels by parsing the permit summary. Additionally, each permit can be mapped using the latitude and longitude.  Magpie includes a mapping capability that produced the below interactive map.


Link to map

Becoming Data Driven

While Magpie has proven itself in this exercise of wrangling messy building permit data, and mapping it in a way that shows immediate trends in solar activity in Washington DC, Silectis’s data lake technology has applications in any situation where there is value to be found in big data.  In the past, Silectis has worked with financial institutions to process market data, SaaS companies to prep consumer data for analysis, and anyone else who wants to become data driven.

If your organization is interested in setting up a data lake and wants to get up and running as quickly as possible, click here to see how Magpie can help.

Brendan Freehart is a Data Engineer at Silectis.
You can find him on LinkedIn.