If you’re considering solar power but aren’t quite sure it’s worth the expense, Google wants to point you in the right direction. Tapping its trove of satellite imagery and the latest in artificial intelligence, the company is offering a new online service that will instantly estimate how much you’ll save with a roof full of solar panels.
On Monday, the company unveiled Project Sunroof, a tool that calculates your home’s solar power potential using the same high-resolution aerial photos Google Earth uses to map the planet. After creating a 3-D model of your roof, the service estimates how much sun will hit those solar panels during the year and how much money the panels could save you over the next two decades. “People search Google all the time to learn about solar,” says Google’s Joel Conkling. “But it would be much more helpful if they could learn whether their particular roof is a good fit.”
The service is now available for homes in the San Francisco Bay Area, central California, and the greater Boston area. Google is headquartered in California, you see, and project creator Carl Elkin lives in Boston. Based in the company’s Cambridge offices, Elkin typically works on Google’s search engine, but he developed Project Sunroof during his “20 percent time“—that slice of the work week Googlers can use for independent projects.
How Google Parses Your Roof
Elkin’s own home has solar panels, and he once volunteered with Solarize Massachusetts to promote solar in the Bay State. He and Google see Project Sunroof pushing solar use further still. “We people want to go solar but don’t understand how cheap it is,” Elkin says. “I wanted people to understand that they can actually save money.”