Climate-conscious homeowners will have probably asked themselves these questions: should I install solar panels on my roof? Will it be worth the investment? How long would I have to wait before I see the return?
Project Sunroof, Google’s newly launched online tool, aims to help homeowners explore the idea of installing solar panels by using Google Maps 3D modelling information.
The tool draws together data on sun positioning, shade and temperature patterns in the area, and roof orientation to identify the best places in a city to gather solar energy.
Further information on government subsidies and local scheme to sell back excess energy to the grid are also factored in to allow homeowners to assess how much could be saved in energy bills. A short video introducing Project Sunroof provides additional details.
Google’s Sunroof service is currently only available to residents in Boston, Fresno and the San Francisco Bay Area. However, Project Sunroof’s tagline is "Mapping the planet's solar potential, one roof at a time", so extending the service to the rest of the US, and then the world, seems to be in the pipeline.
Is this the nudge needed to encourage greater adoption of solar energy roof panels?
Martin Hunt, Built Environment & Infrastructure Specialist at Forum for the Future, sees value in this tool: “It brings together of a number of different datasets to homeowners with a ready answer of whether solar panels are feasible. Not only does it assess the technical feasibility, but it also factors in local incentives or ordinances that could impact and support solar panel installation”.
Modelling techniques have been used by solar panel installation companies for many years, but Google’s new tool (and strong press coverage) has the potential to remove some of the confusion around solar power, and make the process more transparent for the general public.
Is installing solar panels still too expensive for the average homeowner? It depends where you live. Solar power is now as cheap as traditional energy sources in Italy and Germany, but the costs are still relatively high in the US.
Google, Project Sunroof
Slate (August 17, 2015) Should You Install Solar Panels on Your Roof? Let Google Help You decide.