Environment

Google's Project Sunroof highlights huge solar potential of US homes

Google's Project Sunroof highl...
Google's Project Sunroof has now analyzed around 60 million buildings
Google's Project Sunroof has now analyzed around 60 million buildings
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Google says if the US' top ten cities hit their rooftop potential, it would produce enough energy to power eight million homes
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Google says if the US' top ten cities hit their rooftop potential, it would produce enough energy to power eight million homes
Project Sunroof visualization of Google's own Googleplex in California
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Project Sunroof visualization of Google's own Googleplex in California
Google's Project Sunroof has now analyzed around 60 million buildings
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Google's Project Sunroof has now analyzed around 60 million buildings

Back in 2015, Google launched a clever venture called Project Sunroof that used Google Maps data to assess the solar potential of individual roofs, giving homeowners a better idea of whether or not they should take the plunge. From humble beginnings in a few select cities the project has now expanded to cover every US State, and the data collected in the process makes a compelling case for solar indeed.

The upfront costs of installing rooftop solar might cause many to hesitate, particularly considering the unknowns around how much energy it would actually produce. Project Sunroof is Google's attempt to remove some of the guesswork, combining aerial images from Google Maps with 3D modeling of the roof and even taking into account sun position, weather patterns and shade from nearby objects.

From this information, Google can calculate how many hours of usable sunlight your roof receives along with how much is available for placement of solar panels. It can then estimate the resulting energy production and, based on current solar industry pricing, the costs and savings involved if you decide to go ahead.

The project started in Boston, Fresno and the San Francisco Bay Area in August 2015 and has now analyzed around 60 million buildings across the country. All this data has revealed some very useful insights about the state of solar power in the US. For starters, 79 percent of all roofs analyzed are technically viable for solar power. That's four out of every five homes.

Google says if the US' top ten cities hit their rooftop potential, it would produce enough energy to power eight million homes
Google says if the US' top ten cities hit their rooftop potential, it would produce enough energy to power eight million homes

In Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico, more than 90 percent of the homes are technically viable. In Pennsylvania, Maine and Minnesota, just over 60 percent are viable. As far as the total solar potential of US cities go, Houston tops the list with an estimated 18,940 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of generation per year. Google says if the country's top ten cities hit their rooftop potential, it would produce enough energy to power eight million homes.

If you're interested in seeing what your rooftop has to offer, you can check out the Project Sunroof explorer tool here.

Source: Google

11 comments
Augure
Why hasn't domestic solar energy picked-up yet? Is it a technological, ressourcing, ecological yield problem or...still the same lobbying problem we've forgotten about?
LarryWolf
That number would be a lot higher if people would trim back their trees overgrowing their landscaping.
aksdad
My home doesn't appear yet. A home nearby with a similar profile and orientation shows $0 net savings. There are lots of reasons PV panels aren't widely adopted yet even though the panels are about $1 per watt or less. The PV panels are only part of the cost. The inverters that convert the DC 12V electricity from the panels to AC 120V household cost as much as the panels. And the electricity is only available during sunlight hours. With grid-tied inverters (the vast majority) if there's a power blackout you can't access the electricity generated by your PV panels. Crazy, right? Off-grid inverters are even more expensive, then there's the huge cost of installing battery banks. Battery backup inverters are tied to the grid and can feed power back to the grid, but are the most expensive and they also require expensive battery banks. Grid-tied PV panel installations are the only ones so far that are cost-effective for a lot of homeowners...with federal and local subsidies and utility companies required to buy excess electricity generated by your panels. When about 5% or so of homeowners have installed PV panels, the utility companies begin to grouse about paying for the electricity you generate and state legislatures begin reworking the rules so utilities are not required to buy the excess electricity. Then the savings go poof.
wle
you also need inverters, if you expect to run your 120V AC stuff on it.. then if you want it to work at night, you need batteries. both of which are very expensive, then all of it wears out at different times. the problem is not 'lobbying' [though for a lot of issues (HEALTH CARE) it is]
Douglas Bennett Rogers
I was holding out for Dow Powerhouse shingles but they are discontinued. I probably couldn't have used them because I have a cathedral ceiling. Right now, it looks like a white roof is more cost effective.
StWils
The estimate for usable roof space is not at all new and was well identified at least thirty years ago. However no mention is made of many million square feet of flat roof on every office park, mall, or light manufacturing building. Adding up all that square footage yields a giant amount of solar potential. As solar arrays have gotten both more productive and cheaper as well as more durable solar clearly shows it is capable of providing MOST of our day to day electrical needs. The one obvious long standing problem of course is storage. Historically only conventional batteries were envisioned and even they have grudgingly & slowly improved. There are several big deal changes that are evolving and slowly coming to market. One is that the electronics for inverters have gotten better, faster, and cheaper. The next step will be be smaller inverters for portions of much larger panels. The very big deal change is storage in a variety of forms, from hydro storage to flow batteries, conversion to hydrogen or other useful compounds such as methane or CO the storage picture is finally becoming robust enough to enable a broad based general transformation of electrical generation and consumption across the whole of the world at every scale from villages to developed societies. This literally can have the same broad based impact on the world as the advent of coal had upon the rising industrial revolution. Now, if only we can survive long enough to get over the hurdle of chasing a loud Braying Jackass and his Russian sponsors off the world stage perhaps we can get on with the business of actually improving the world. Whining about how some small bit of technology seems underwhelming only serves to obscure a larger better view. It took awhile for cars to evolve from stinky clumsy unsafe unstable toys to Jaguar E types, the first few Mustangs, the T bird, etc. So just Chill a bit.
DaleBarclay
Solve the storage problem and it will be worth it. But set up your lights and other simple electric needs on a 12 volt system. It can be done at a lower cost like a RV setup for a kitchen.
DaveWesely
We need to rethink our use of electrical inverters. Specifically in terms of our lightbulbs. LEDs, which are quickly taking over CFL usage, use about 12 v. DC. My guess is having a small inverter built into every light bulb is inefficient. But if you use your 12 v. DC generated by your solar panels on a separate circuit to run your lights and other low voltage DC appliances (computers), as well as charge your batteries, then the only inverter you would need would be in case you need to switch your DC circuits to the grid. So what we need is a 12 volt DC appliance standard like a USB power outlet.
Pranav Vissanji
Shouldn't google focus on countries that don't even have access to basic electricity 24 hours a day first?
Chizzy
didn't Google invest in solar City? that's why they did this, to create a better potential client list for solar City customers. wish they could do my town.