Suburban sprawl could hold the solution to decreasing fuel supplies around the world, by producing more efficient energy that could even power the CBDs.

According to a team of scientists headed by UK Professor Hugh Byrd, the continued adoption of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on suburban roofs, coupled with an increased use of electric vehicles, would allow outer suburbs the ability to harness excess energy which could be used to power city buildings.

Surburban sprawl has often been thought of as energy-inefficient, and as a result, architectural policy has always seen growth occur inwards. But the new research shows that solar panels on the roofs of detached suburban houses are capable of producing ten times the amount of energy created by high rise and other commercial buildings.


“While a compact city may be more efficient for internal combustion engine vehicles, a dispersed city is more efficient when distributed generation of electricity by photovoltaic installations is the main energy source and electric vehicles are the principal mode of transport,” Professor Byrd said.

This is particular important as we look to move away from a reliance on fossil fuels.

For an energy-efficient suburbia to be effective, city planners will need to ensure new suburban development requires the installation of photovoltaic roofing and smart meters. Suitable charging facilities for electric vehicles would also need to be setup.

“Photovoltaics on rooftops, of course, also have all the advantages of renewable energy systems, such as reduced carbon emissions, offsetting dependent on the electricity grid and long-term energy security,” said Byrd, “all of which will only become more important in cities of the future.”

The project was funded by The University of Auckland. Read the full report here.