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New tool answers the question: Does the sun shine enough to justify solar where you live?

Check out this new tool offered by Seattle-based 3Tier, the firm that's dedicated to understanding the weather better in order to advise folks investing in solar, wind and hydro energy.

The new FirstLook tool allows the user to calculate the potential for solar energy at any given spot in the Western Hemisphere. You'll have to pay 3Tier if you want to take advantage of the tool, so we haven't actually waded in to touch the thing. Here is an explanation of it, though.

It's not the first such database, but it's better than the previous versions, 3Tier says, because it has "approximately three times the resolution of existing industry solar datasets for the United States. This is the first and only dataset that covers all of North, Central, and South America."

We think we'll take this opportunity to point out, contrary to a recent comment by a Dateline Earth reader, that even rainy and grey places like Rain City have the potential to capture a fair amount of solar energy.

It's true that sunnier places could soak up more solar juice. But Mike Nelson, head of Washington State University's Northwest Solar Center, frequently reminds anyone who'll listen that the Pacific Northwest's sun-to-clouds ratio is roughly the equivalent of Bavaria, Germany's sunniest region. And yet the Germans have gone great guns on solar while we've been sitting on our hands in the good ol' US of A. We touched on this in this story last year.

Posted by Robert McClure Robert McClureat October 13, 2008 11:51 a.m. Categories: Climate change, Consumers and the environment, Global warming, Renewable energy