With the promise of “mapping the planet’s solar potential, one roof at a time,” Google has launched a free online service, Project Sunroof, that helps homeowners harness the energy- and money-saving power of solar energy. A home’s capability for generating solar power is calculated through a combination of programs, including Google Maps, which can track shadows from nearby structures and trees; 3D roof modeling software; and apps that track various weather patterns. It then uses information from local solar providers to estimate solar costs and savings over the long term. Here’s a quick video on how it works:


Enlightening Savings


Enlightening SavingsProject Sunroof’s creator, Carl Elkin, came up with the idea while volunteering for Solarize Massachusetts and talking to hundreds of people. He learned that while most people were aware of solar energy’s eco-friendly qualities, many were unaware of the actual long-term savings on energy costs. So he developed Project Sunroof to not only recommend the right solar panel installation per home, but to also calculate savings. The calculation considers whether the solar panels are leased or bought, and which incentives and rebates can be applied. Because the cost and installation of solar panels has decreased sharply in the past few years, the payback time for the investment can be as little as three years according to AmericaSupportsSolar.org.



Hooking You Up


Hooking You UpThe final step in Project Sunroof’s service is to refer you to solar providers in your area. This may be the true genius behind Project Sunroof, because the solar providers pay Google for these referrals, which keeps Google’s shareholders happy. Currently, Project Sunroof only serves three U.S. cities: San Francisco, Fresno, and Boston, but they hope to expand their reach over time. The time is definitely right, as more and more people are turning to solar power for a reliable and affordable source of clean energy. In 2015’s first quarter, the number of U.S. solar system installations broke all records according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), bringing the total number of households using solar power to around 700,000.


To learn more about solar energy, visit SEIA’s Solar Blog.