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Solar Design with Sketchup

May 30th, 2015

Sketchup for Solar


As someone who has done a good deal of solar design work in AutoCAD 2D–I was excited to explore the potential for designing in Sketchup–3D-style. The above planset was drafted for a friend of mine. I’ve removed the specific location details from the titleblock, as well as the electrical wire schedules–lest anyone make the mistake of trying to copy the design.


So I randomly decided to re-explore Sketchup a couple weeks ago on a whim, and in doing so realized that on download I had access to a 30-day trial of ‘Layout’ as part of Sketchup Pro. Layout is the essential tool for making permit-able plansets for Sketchup designers–intended for the ‘professional’, not included in the standard free package. About the same time, I was recruited by a friend to design a small PV system for his house as a favor.

Full Screen Version


Circumstances converged and I decided to embark on what is likely one of the first 3D solar plansets. My friend had given me all the raw materials that I would need: blueprints for the house, cutsheets for all the equipment, roof measurements, and he had a rough vision for how the system would look, design-wise.


The process went quickly, and I’m–once again–a huge fan of Sketchup. I got the dimensioned, floorplan blue-print into Sketchup in less than 5 minutes. I offset the floor plan 6″ and brought the walls up 8′ for the first floor. Creating the roof followed a similar process–design in 2D then use the push/pull tool to create 3D geometry. Finally I added details like the standing seams, the windows, the porch, etc.


Those who have used AutoCAD will be familiar with the viewports that can be created in layout. Viewports are essentially windows into the Sketchup model–taken from any any at any scale. The best way to do this is using ‘scenes’–which is essentially just a frozen camera angle–in Sketchup. The Layout file is directly linked to the Sketchup file you are working on. When you create a scene in Sketchup and save the file, all changes will populate into your Layout file.



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