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17 March 2017

Google’s Project Sunroof Reveals Solar Panel Viability throughout United States

When operating a company on the sheer scale of Google, showing the world-at-large that you are committed to not only delivering a great product or service but also ensuring the long-term longevity of our planet and its resources will do wonders for your public image. This is something that Google recognise, with their pledge to power their global operations solely on renewable energy by next year receiving widespread recognition and praise. In 2015, they further cemented their apparent position as an eco-conscious company with the launch of Project Sunroof, a service which uses 3D modelling software and imagery from Google’s existing Maps and Earth software to calculate effective solar energy plans for homes and other buildings, guiding users through the process from viability checks to financial options to finally contacting a chosen provider.

The Project Sunroof software calculates the annual sunlight received by each section of the roof by incorporating data such as weather patterns, the sun’s position in the sky, and shade caused by obstructions such as trees and other buildings. This estimated sunlight figure is then translated into energy production using industry standard models.

The problem up until now has been the limited scope of the software, restricted as it was the only select parts of the United States. The good news? As of March 14th, the software has been updated to now cover each and every state in the US, vastly improving its eco-friendly potential by allowing more and more residents access to its catalogue of data. According to Google, approximately 60 million building have now been analysed by the Project Sunroof.

Project Sunroof county-level coverage from 2015 - 2017
Users can access the data explorer tool to explore rooftop solar potential across U.S. zip codes, cities, counties and states, while the savings estimator tool does exactly as the name suggests.

Google have also revealed some additional insights provided by the expanded database, as listed in their recent blog post:
  • Seventy-nine percent of all rooftops analyzed are technically viable for solar, meaning those rooftops have enough unshaded area for solar panels.
  • Over 90 percent of homes in Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico are technically viable, while states like Pennsylvania, Maine and Minnesota reach just above 60 percent viability.
  • Houston, TX has the most solar potential of any U.S. city in the Project Sunroof data, with an estimated 18,940 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of rooftop solar generation potential per year. Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio, and New York follow Houston for the top 5 solar potential cities - see the full top 10 list in the chart below.
Google have further stated that, “If the top ten cities above reached their full rooftop solar potential, they'd produce enough energy to power 8 million homes across the US.”

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.