You can now “Google your roof.”
To ecourage more people equip their homes with solar panels, the company just launched a new initiative dubbed Project Sunroof.
Search your home address and Google’s tool will spit out information to will help you decide whether solar panels could be a right renewable energy option for you.
You’ll see about how much sunlight hits your roof during the year, based on high-resolution aerial mapping and local weather patterns, and how much money you could save if you went solar.
If they’re interested in moving forward with an installation, the tool can then recommend solar providers in your area (Google has partnered with five so far).
Right now, it only works for addresses in areas around San Francisco and Fresno, California, or Boston, Massachusetts, but Google says it plans to expanding the tool’s reach over time.
Project Sunroof is the brainchild of self-described “solar energy geek” Carl Elkin.
Elkin, who’s worked as an engineer at Google for nearly three years, has long been interested in both the science of solar and its benefits to the environment, installing panels on his own house in 2011 and volunteering with the Boston-based program Solarize Masschusetts since 2012.
“In doing that, I talked to hundreds of people, and one thing that I really learned was that people overall don’t always realise that they can save money by installing solar panels,” he tells Business Insider. “They often think, ‘Sure it’s good for the environment, but it’s going to cost me money.'”
But Elkins says that solar power often isn’t the money-loser people think it is and can often cheaper than grid power.
Through conversations with people on Google’s Geo and Maps teams, it dawned on him that Google had data and computational tools necessary to put together a tool that could potentially help millions of people. He started working on creating a resource as a 20% time project about a year and a half ago — Google encourages its employees to spend a fifth of their time working on things they’re passionate about that think could benefit the company — but took on Project Sunroof full-time for the last several months.
Although not every 20% project makes it to the big leagues, Elkin’s says his project won approval because it fits neatly with Google’s overall goals.
“We’re providing information to our users — which of course is absolutely core to Google’s mission — and we’re using data from many parts of the company,” he says. “It also really fits in Google’s tradition investing in renewable energy.”
In a blog post about Sunroof, Elkin points out that Google has invested in a company called SolarCity, helped finance the largest solar farm in Africa, and priotized making its new campus as solar-powered as possible.
“Because we were using so much of the ‘Google Magic’ as well as doing something that would be difficult to do outside of Google, it was widely thought that this would be worth an investment of some Google resources,” he says.
“We’re really very excited. We think that this is important both for Google and for the country. It provides very useful information for a lot of people who are coming to Google anyways to start their solar journey.
Watch Google’s video here: