google project sunroof

Google Project Sunroof: making solar easier

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The cost to install solar has dropped by more than 70 percent in the last decade, with prices in Q3 of 2020 hitting the lowest levels ever recorded. Yet many still believe that solar is only a luxury item for green-minded consumers, rather than a long term cost-saving investment. Why is this? A big reason is the lack of easily accessible information about how solar can save you money. Like EnergySage, Google’s Project Sunroof looks to fix this using smart technology.

What is Project Sunroof?

Google Project Sunroof is an initiative started by Carl Elkin, a Google engineer based in Cambridge, MA. Project Sunroof’s biggest claim to fame is its solar calculator tool, which uses data from satellite imagery to graphically map the solar potential of roofs across the United States. 

The imagery provided by Google Earth allows for the creation of a digital surface model, which shows the direction that the roof faces (south or southwest exposure is best), the angle of its tilt, and the presence of shading objects like trees. From here, Google models how much sunlight hits the roof over the course of the day using 3-D geometry. Adding in data about local weather patterns and taking averages over the course of a year, and you have a solid baseline estimate of a roof’s solar potential. 

From here, it only requires a few more calculations to give a custom cost estimate for any home. Simply enter your address to give it a try here

What problem does Project Sunroof solve?

Like EnergySage, Project Sunroof seeks to solve the problem of information transparency in the solar industry. For many people, going solar is a challenging process that’s filled with research and questions. There is no shortage of solar information and data on the Internet, but it is extremely dispersed, and sometimes difficult to understand for those unfamiliar with the industry and its terminology. 

Project Sunroof seeks to make going solar easier by providing the public with accurate, fast, and easy to understand data. All you need to do is enter in your address, and Google does the hard work behind the scenes, providing you with an accurate estimate of how much you could save with solar. They pair this with a “heat map” visual of your roof, giving a clear picture of its solar potential. Lighter colors represent sunnier areas, and darker tones indicate shading.

google project sunroof

What are the drawbacks of Project Sunroof?

At this time, Project Sunroof has not reached every roof in the United States. Although Google continues to add new properties every day, the service is not yet available for every home. However, as of late 2020, Project Sunroof has reached more than 60 million roofs across all 50 states, so there’s a good chance that your home has been mapped already! This should continue to improve as Project Sunroof expands its coverage in the coming months and years. 

Project Sunroof vs. EnergySage’s Solar Calculator: What’s the difference?

Because EnergySage has our own Solar Calculator, we often get questions about how our tool differs from Project Sunroof’s – truthfully, we use Project Sunroof’s data directly to help create our own savings calculation! Their data mapping capabilities combined with numbers straight from custom solar quotes in our Marketplace allow us to create the most accurate solar cost and savings estimates possible.

It works like this: Project Sunroof tells us how much sunlight hits each part of your roof over the course of a year. We then use this data to predict how much energy an average solar panel would generate on your roof. Once we have this number, we use your electricity bill and roof map to estimate how much electricity an array of solar panels could produce for your property. This, coupled with our Marketplace cost data for solar in your area, gives an accurate estimate of how much money you could save. 

The EnergySage Solar Calculator has a couple more benefits over Project Sunroof. Firstly, even if Project Sunroof has not mapped your roof yet, we can still provide you with an estimate of your solar savings! In these scenarios, we assume 100 percent bill coverage from solar, calculate how much you would save based on solar prices and electricity rates in your area, and then add a note of how many square feet of your roof you would need to fit those solar panels. 

Second, we also show savings estimates for community solar alongside rooftop financing options in states where this is available. This can be especially helpful if you can’t install solar panels on your roof, but still want to take advantage of solar power.

Can’t install solar panels on your roof? Consider community solar. 

If community solar is available in your state, you can get a quick savings estimate using our Solar Calculator. Plus, our Community Solar Marketplace allows you to search open projects by zip code – take a look today to see local community solar options, or sign up to receive updates as new projects open up in your area!

Explore your solar savings with EnergySage’s calculator today!

Get the best data from both Project Sunroof and EnergySage and explore your cost savings with the EnergySage Solar Calculator. We use the most accurate information available to give you a strong estimate of how much you’ll save by going solar. If you’d like to take advantage of these potential savings, create an account with us, and we’ll provide you with competitive quotes from local installers!

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About Tobin Gedstad

Tobin is a Marketplace Specialist at EnergySage, where he focuses on industry research, new technologies, and analytics. He is currently a student at Boston University, with a major in Economics and a double minor in Computer Science and Sustainable Energy. Tobin brings a passion for making clean energy cost-competitive and easy to understand for all people. Outside of work and school, you can find him playing soccer or exploring Boston with friends.

One thought on “Google Project Sunroof: making solar easier

  1. Dan E Muller

    Sir yes, solar is looking very attractive. Growing up on a farm in Idaho I have always been sort of self sustained.
    Looking forward to your reviews like a dog waiting for a bone but I still have doubts that my master will ever throw the bone. The two biggest problems I will ask about and the many subproblems will have to wait.
    One I am retired living on SSI ,so I pay no income tax do not even file a 1040. As I review your calculations on the cost and payback of solar they almost always include a Tax incentive from the Government. My question is are there any incentives old retired famers? Or rebates from somewhere else?
    The other is that I am sort of a DIY person. For the last 3 years I have got some quotes to install a new heating and cooling system in my home. The quotes were all around $10,000. The represents that came out wanted seemed to analyze exactly what would be needed. Therefore I concluded that what they had in mind was a rip off. I have since bought a Goodman 3 ton heat pump system complete and installed it for less than half that.
    So that brings up the people in solar system business. I know everyone needs to make a business work, but for a DIY no ones seems to have the time for the simple talk, especially when such talk will cause the customer to buy someplace else.
    I am thinking in terms of buying used panels then having to buy mounting brackets for them. Then of course the controller, the inverter, the wires, and the storage system, if I were to buy all those used it in not likely I would get much help. I do understand their problems with that. But for years and year farming and the cattle business could ask many local dealers, vets, lumber yard, vets and many businesses in evolved and they would help. Not so with the HVAC business while your solar blog is good, I think when you get down to some old farmer asking how do thing he knows very little about I would not get much help.
    Dan Muller


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