Intel® Parallel Computing Center at Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS), NUS

Principal Investigator

Martin ReedDr. Martin Reed is a Senior Research Fellow in the Solar Potential and Energy Meteorology Group at SERIS. He is responsible for the implementation of 3D solar insolation models for determining regions of high solar potential in urban areas with complex architectures. He has an honors degree in Applied and Computational Mathematics from the University of Sheffield and a PhD in Computational Electromagnetics from the University of Nottingham. He has worked in the UK, the US, Singapore and China. He is fluent in Mandarin and has a Master's degree in Chinese Translation & Interpretation from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Wilfred WalshWilfred Walsh is Head of the Solar Potential & Energy Meteorology Group at SERIS. He is a physicist and astronomer having previously operated and managed observatories for Australia Telescope National Facility, the Max Planck Institute in Germany and the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the USA. He is currently working in the new field of energy meteorology which aims to quantify renewable energy resources to facilitate the large scale deployment of sustainable energy sources. At present his work focuses on solar irradiance forecasting and grid management for cities with high penetration levels of solar photovoltaic electricity generation.


Solar insolation (time average value of solar irradiance) is emerging as an important parameter in the design of modern and future cities. Rapid declines in solar photovoltaic (PV) costs mean that rooftop and façade PV systems are viable almost everywhere. To date, most insolation analyses have focused on the 2D problem of rooftops only or have been performed by commercial software that relies on simplistic sky models. Commercial solutions exist within proprietary packages that are often not amenable to modification or automated deployment over large areas. At SERIS we have developed and implemented a novel approach to the simulation of full 3D solar insolation profiles of complex geometries using open source libraries. The current solution leverages both Intel® Threading Building Blocks (Intel® TBB) and Visualization Toolkit (VTK) to implement ray tracing algorithms to fully simulate shading effects in highly populated urban areas where accurate insolation profiles are required for cost-benefit analysis and predicted energy generation.

Through the Intel® Parallel Computing Center (Intel® PCC) at SERIS, we aim to implement a highly optimized ray tracing engine with Embree to generate extremely accurate 3D insolation profiles at hugely reduced run times. Such an implementation will lend itself to the solar potential analysis of city-wide and nation-wide solar energy problems around the world. As renewable energy becomes more and more integrated into the design of modern cities, solutions such as this will offer architects, engineers and governments state-of-the-art simulation engines to integrate solar seamlessly into urban development plans.

Computationally, the biggest challenge is ray tracing from every point on a building to every point in the sky taking into account the full complex geometry of an entire building and its surrounding architecture. The simulation must also take into account characteristics of regional direct and diffuse irradiance properties. As urban areas become more and more complex in their design and layout, these types of analyses require huge amounts of computational resources. Leveraging the group’s SGI UV 3000, the Intel® PCC at SERIS will roll out the solution to an Intel® Xeon® processor architecture for a production grade environment and capable of processing hundreds, potentially thousands of buildings automatically.

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