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A visualization-oriented 3D method for efficient computation of urban solar radiation based on 3D–2D surface mapping

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The temporal and spatial distribution of solar energy in urban areas is highly variable because of the complex building structures present. Traditional GIS-based solar radiation models rely on two-dimensional (2D) digital elevation models to calculate insolation, without considering building facades and complicated three-dimensional (3D) shading effects. Inspired by the ‘texture baking’ technique used in computer graphics, we propose a full 3D method for computing and visualizing urban solar radiation based on image-space data representation. First, a surface mapping approach is employed to project each 3D triangular mesh onto a 2D raster surface whose cell size determines the calculation accuracy. Second, the positions and surface normal vectors of each 3D triangular mesh are rasterized onto the associated 2D raster using barycentric interpolation techniques. An efficient compute unified device architecture -accelerated shadow-casting algorithm is presented to accurately capture shading effects for large-scale 3D urban models. Solar radiation is calculated for each raster cell based on the input raster layers containing such information as slope, aspect, and shadow masks. Finally, a resulting insolation raster layer is produced for each triangular mesh and is represented as an RGB texture map using a color ramp. Because a virtual city can be composed of tens of thousands of triangular meshes and texture maps, a texture atlas technique is presented to merge thousands of small images into a single large image to batch draw calls and thereby efficiently render a large number of textured meshes on the graphics processing unit.
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Keywords: 2D raster; 3D triangular mesh; solar radiation model; surface mapping

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: State Key Laboratory of Remote Sensing Science, Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100101, China

Publication date: April 3, 2014

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