On Monday, Google launched Project Sunroof, a new tool to provide information for prospective solar customers. The product utilizes Google Maps’ vast data and a host of other resources, in a bid to make the choice to install PV easy and understandable for anyone.
When an individual interested in installing PV provides his or her address, the program will provide a complete shading analysis, including trees and other obstructions that could lead to complications in output, as well as cloud patterns. The program is currently limited to San Francisco, Fresno and Boston, however Google plans to extend it to the entire nation.
The program then asks for information on customer electricity usage, in order to calculate the optimal system size, with an aim towards 100% coverage. It also provides information on federal, state and utility rebates and incentives, as well as renewable energy credits and net metering.
Finally, Project Sunroof provides potential customers with information on solar providers in their region.
While Google is offering a sophisticated service, the core components of this concept are not new. For years the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) has been providing energy production and cost estimates through its PV Watts Tool.
Additionally, third-party service provider Sungevity has been providing online estimates that include analysis of roof shading, power output and financial payback; however this service was offered to potential customers, not the general public through an anonymous online process.