Project Sunroof transforms the aerial view of the city based on how much sunlight each roof receives. Captured from Project Sunroof

The tech giant’s new tool, Project Sunroof, tells you how much sun you get and how much money you could save.

Rooftop solar panels can bring big savings to homeowners, but many potential converts don’t realize what benefits are within their reach. Maybe they support clean energy but think their roof is too shaded for solar panels. Or they enjoy a lot of sunlight but think the cost of installation is too high. Or they don’t know a solar contractor they trust to carry out the project.

A team of Google engineers just released a tool called Project Sunroof to handle those concerns and more. They adapted the high-resolution aerial maps from Google Earth to estimate the total sunlight a rooftop receives throughout the year. The tool then tells you how much you can expect to save with solar panels under different financing plans (you can plug in your current electric bill for a more refined calculation) and connects you with local companies that do installations.

“There’s this giant power plant in the sky and it’s creating free energy for anyone to catch,” says the narrator in a handy animation released with the project. “But most people aren’t catching it because, even though it could save them money on their electric bills, getting started can be pretty frustrating.”

The video explains that after Google noticed so many people desperately turning to, well, Google in the search for more information on rooftop solar, they decided to proactively give people a tool to answer their questions.

According to the video, Project Sunroof currently operates in Boston (home of the product team), the San Francisco Bay Area (home of Google), and Fresno (home to the mom of one of the engineers; that’s why you should make your kids work at Google). If you type in an address in those regions, you’ll see your street with the rooftops ablaze in molten gold where it’s sunny, or glowering in a moody purple where the sun doesn’t shine. Drop the marker on a house underneath heavy tree cover and you’ll see zero square feet available for solar panels; move it to a gold-crested house and that number soars, along with potential savings.

At the very least, it’s fun navigating around a totally magical-looking cityscape. But beyond the visual alchemy, this program can help loads of people decide whether to give solar a try. No doubt you’ll want a boots-on-the-ground second opinion, and the financing options will differ from case to case, but Project Solar takes another step toward the normalization of rooftop solar for anyone ready to make the switch.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    What the Supreme Court Said About the 2020 Census Citizenship Question

    In oral arguments, conservative justices asked about data science, while liberals asked what the citizenship question was really for.

  2. A group of students talk as one tests a pedal-free bicycle they have built.
    Environment

    How an Ancestor of the Bicycle Relates to Climate Resilience

    Architecture students in Buffalo built their own versions of the "laufmaschine," a proto-bike invented in response to a 19th-century environmental crisis.

  3. A young girl winces from the sting as she receives the polio vaccine in 1954.
    Life

    How Mandatory Vaccination Fueled the Anti-Vaxxer Movement

    To better understand the controversy over New York’s measles outbreak, you have to go back to the late 19th century.

  4. Electricians install solar panels on a roof for Arizona Public Service company in Goodyear, Arizona.
    Environment

    ‘Green New Deal’ Jobs Are Good Jobs. But Who Gets Them?

    A Brookings report finds that jobs in the clean energy, efficiency, and environmental sectors pay higher salaries than the U.S. average.

  5. A photo of shoppers on University Avenue in East Palo Alto, California, which is flanked by two technology campuses.
    Equity

    Silicon Valley is Split Over California's Controversial Housing Bill

    East Palo Alto is surrounded by tech riches, but that hasn’t necessarily helped longtime residents, who welcome a state law mandating more affordable housing.