Chicago’s 22 industrial zones are home to acres of flat rooftops almost entirely covered in heat-trapping black tar. Can those vacant rooftops, currently only adding to the urban heat island effect, be turned into giant solar farms? Lined with arrays of solar panels generating energy for the manufacturing operations inside the buildings, they could even serve as a district generator providing electricity to an entire community.
In 2011 the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development hired a team to examine this opportunity. Quercus Consulting served as the project manager, coordinating the team including AECOM’s economists who studied the financial requirements of building owners, Primera’s engineers examining the physical requirements of the facilities and the power generating capacity, and Urban GIS’s IT experts who identified the sectors most likely to benefit from the power utilizing massive datasets including building location, size, and electricity consumption.