Minneapolis Solar Suitability

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Why We Love It

Immediately this map appeals to us because it’s accessible and simple. Any resident or business in Minneapolis can use it. Viewed locally, the map conveys personal geography. We love how the way this map answers important questions: How much solar potential is there at my house? My garage? My workplace? My school? Taken as a whole, the map conveys the abundance of solar potential even in a relatively northern city like Minneapolis.

Why It Works

This map uses a familiar spectral color scheme instead of a legend. Colors intuitively indicate insolation levels. Well-formatted pop-ups provide solar suitability information for each building. The map does more than simply report raw data. It states whether or not a property has solar suitability and includes estimates of how many solar panels will fit. It also gives an estimate of kilowatt hours produced and dollars saved. Finally, it links to professional solar installers.

Important Steps

Using this elevation model as an input, the Area Solar Radiation geoprocessing tool calculated the total incoming solar radiation (insolation) for each square meter accounting for variations in elevation, slope, orientation, and shading from surrounding features such as trees.

Flat rooftops and rooftop areas with southeast- to southwest-facing slopes were considered appropriate for solar energy systems. LiDAR data was used to identify the slope.

Solar insolation and slope data was clipped using local building footprint data from the city of Minneapolis.

To help filter the data, the map only shows portions of rooftops that receive a minimum amount of insolation year-round and are large enough to accommodate at least 1,000 watts of solar panels.



LiDAR elevation data from the Minnesota GeoSpatial Information Office and Minneapolis building footprints data were used in the analysis to create the spreadsheet of attributed buildings that underlies the application.


Using the LiDAR elevation model and the Area Solar Radiation geoprocessing tools, we calculated insolation for each square meter of rooftops, accounting for variations in elevation, slope, orientation, and shading from surrounding features. The Slope tool was used to identify flat or southerly-facing roofs.


Approximately 40 hours.

Neutral Basemap


Use a neutral basemap to ensure the bright colors in the insolation analysis will stand out. Although dark grey is a typical choice, a lighter background gives a sense of a sunny day, reinforcing the map’s insolation theme.

Visible scale range


Limit the visible scale range so that data is only shown at the scales where it is useful and relevant.



Pop-ups are well formatted with relevant information in bold and explained in full sentences, making the map approachable for anyone.

More Information

Map Author

City of Minneapolis Sustainability

City of Minneapolis Sustainability

@CityMinneapolis | LinkedIn

The City of Minneapolis is committed to citywide economic opportunity, social equality, and environmental health. Sustainability means balancing those concerns in the present without sacrificing the ability for future generations to meet their own needs.

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