A review of the solar city concept and methods to assess rooftop solar electric potential, with an illustrative application to the city of Seoul

John Byrne, Job Taminiau, Lado Kurdgelashvili, Kyung Nam Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

167 Citations (Scopus)


Energy economy restructuring at the city level is an essential prong in any strategy that aims to address the dual energy and climate change challenges. Cities form hubs of human activity that are accompanied by high levels of energy consumption and emissions but also contain existing resources and infrastructure to transition to a greener energy economy. This paper reviews efforts to date to define the 'solar city' concept and assessment methods for estimating the solar electric potential of an often neglected but vital city resource in energy matters - its rooftop real estate. From this review, an application of the solar city concept is formulated and an assessment method is offered for its investigation. An illustrative case study is provided, using the City of Seoul, South Korea. Representing nearly one-quarter of South Korea's population and a one-third of its economic activity, the application of the solar city concept to the city can have significant consequences for the future energy development pathway of the municipality and the country (the metropolitan area of Seoul encompasses nearly one-half of the national population). The research demonstrates that a technical potential equivalent to almost 30% of the city's annual electricity consumption can be supplied by widespread deployment of rooftop-based distributed photovoltaic systems. Using the methodology developed in the paper, we estimate that sixty-six percent of the annual daylight-hours electricity needs of the City of Seoul can be served by distributed solar power systems on a typical day. It is additionally found that considerable peak shaving is possible, lessening the pressure on the city's electricity grid. These findings can be expected to extend to other large cities when the solar city concept is thoughtfully applied.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)830-844
Number of pages15
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jan

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge with appreciation the financial support of the National Research Foundation of Korea (MSIP, University-Institute Cooperation Program).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Built environment
  • Peak shaving
  • Photovoltaics
  • Solar city
  • Solar energy
  • Solar rooftop potential
  • Urban solar potential

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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