The effect of urban morphology on the solar capacity of three-dimensional cities

Rui Zhu, Man Sing Wong (Corresponding Author), Linlin You, Paolo Santi, Janet Nichol, Hung Chak Ho, Lin Lu, Carlo Ratti

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


As a clean and renewable resource, solar energy is increasingly being used to relieve the pressures on environmental protection and the exhaustion of conventional energy. Although photovoltaic modules have been installed in many cities, the lack of quantitative mapping of the annual solar energy potential of urban surfaces hinders the effective utilization of solar energy. Herein, we provide a solar irradiation estimation solution for three-dimensional (3D) cities to quantify annual irradiations on urban envelopes and to investigate the effect of urban morphology on the resulting solar capacity. By modelling urban surfaces as 3D point clouds, annual irradiations of the point clouds were estimated. An empirical investigation across ten cities suggests that urban areas at lower latitudes tend to have larger values of annual irradiation; moreover, an area having greater building heights consistently has the largest third quartile of irradiation compared with lower buildings in the same city. Conversely, areas with many low buildings have a larger proportion of useable areas; in this arrangement, façades can optimally utilize solar energy, meaning that large irradiations are concentrated on certain façades. The Pearson correlation coefficients between solar capacity and urban morphology indices suggest that urban morphology has an important effect on solar capacity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1111-1126
Number of pages16
JournalRenewable Energy
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • 3D solar cities
  • Solar capacity
  • Solar energy
  • Urban morphology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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