There has always been an inverse relationship between mechanisation and physical labor; as technology advances the jobs laborers used to do it replaced. LiDAR and GIS are both tools that make previously labor intensive jobs relatively easy, with the right equipment. For instance, measuring the practicality of solar panels used to involve looking at blue prints to find the shape of a roof, and cross referencing that to geographic information, weather patterns, and seasonal predictions to determine potential sunlight amounts. All of this however can now be done with relative ease by one man who never has to leave his computer.
Take for instance Moulay Anwar Sounny-Slitine’s (University of Texas; Department of Geography and the Environment) essay Potential of Solar Power on the University of Texas Campus. By using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) for the area around the University of Texas to take elevation samples of UT buildings, trees, and geographic features.
Buildings can then be removed if they are covered by foliage or had historic reasons that solar panels would be undesirable. ArcMap is then able to predict sunlight summations and the buildings with the most radiation is highlighted. Slitine then coded the most cost effective buildings.
The paper ends with the observation that solar energy is becoming progressively more affordable and that solar energy ought be explored in the future. While planning and mapping the economic viability for solar energy used to take a team or consulting firm now it takes a single man behind a computer.