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  • Writer's pictureKerry Lipp

Solar Resource In Rochester, NY

Is there enough of a solar resource in Rochester, New York?

This is a common question and some believe that there is not enough sun here in upstate NY to warrant installing solar PV.

First of all, it is true that other parts of the country, as well as other parts of the world, do receive more sun annually than the Rochester area. However, there are a couple of points to consider: First, Rochester's latitude is 43 N, while Germany, one of the world's leaders in solar, has an average latitude of 52 N, a full 9 degrees father north than we are here in the Rochester area, therefore there is more potential here than in Germany. Second, one of the best indicators of the solar resource are plants. Do plants seem to thrive here in Rochester? Absolutely, look at all of the fields, forests, vineyards, pastures and farms in the area.

Now let's take a look at the data. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL, is a great resource for all things solar and has been collecting data for solar since 1974.

Their website is

The map for New York State is here:

According to the NREL map of NY, the Rochester area receives 3.6 to 3.9 kWh per square meter per day. This is the annual daily average, calculated from hourly model output from 2008-2012. Over a one year period, every square meter in the Rochester and finger lakes area will receive an average 3.75 kWh from the sun every day. This equates to 1,369 kWh per year for each square meter (3.75 x 365 = 1369)). This accounts for cloud cover and atmospheric density. Solar panels, or modules, are not 100% efficient, so we cannot harvest all of this energy. A typical Canadian Solar CS3U-355P 355 watt module has an efficiency of 18% and has a footprint of 1.8 sq meters. Every one of these modules if placed in the sun at an optimal tilt will receive 2464 kWh per year (1369 x 1.8 = 2464). Too bad we can't use all of that due to module efficiency, but we can still use 18% of that for a total of 443 kWh per year (2464 x .18 = 443). 443 kWh is a lot of energy and it is about half of what the average US household uses per month. Some households will use this much or less per month. If a home used 443 kWh per month, then just 12 of these modules would provide all of the electricity needed to offset the entire electric bill for the year. Also, most modules carry a 25 year production warranty with some having a 30 year production warranty.

To conclude, Rochester, upstate and the finger lakes region may not have the solar resource that the southwestern states have but there is a substantial solar resource here for the taking. And the sun comes up every day.

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