Google Project Sunroof takes guesswork out of solar switch

Google is hoping to encourage more homeowners to fit rooftop solar panels, launching Project Sunroof to do the math on just how much could be saved. The system relies on the same aerial imagery that Google already delivers in Google Earth, figuring out rooftop area and then taking into account factors like what angle the sunlight will hit it, whether it's in the shade of nearby buildings or trees, and even what the weather might be like in your area.

Although there have been basic calculators available for some time now that convert roof area into potential solar energy production, they're fairly rudimentary. What Google Project Sunroof aims to do, engineering lead Carl Elkin says, is to give homeowners a more fleshed-out understanding of the potential benefits.

For instance, Elkin says, many people who could offset their regular electricity bill considerably are under the impression that it would be too expensive or inefficient to do so with solar panels.

With that in mind, Project Sunroof allows for the typical electric bill to be entered too, and then can estimate exactly what those savings might be. Calculations based on both outright purchase and panel leasing are given.

Finally, it can connect users with a solar panel provider – complete with forwarding them the relevant sums – to get the installation process going.

The various factors involved mean it's not a simple process, however, and so the system is launching first in the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno in central California, and Boston. Elkin says more locations will roll out in due course.

SOURCE Project Sunroof