- Google on Monday announced the launch of Project Sunroof, a new tool that uses Google Earth's aerial mapping technology to calculate the solar potential of rooftops.
- By figuring out how much sunlight reaches a certain rooftop, the tool calculates how much a consumer could save with rooftop solar, and can connect them with an installer in the area. SunEdison, Vivint Solar, and NRG Home Solar have already partnered with the project.
- The tool will for now only be available in Boston, Massachusetts; Fresno, California; and the San Francisco Bay Area. Google has indicated its ambitions are to roll this tool out to the rest of the country soon.
Type in your address and -- voilà! -- out comes your solar potential. At least that's the promise of Google's new Project Sunroof tool, "a kind of treasure map for solar energy."
The potential of Project Sunroof itself is not small: It could allow everyday consumers to easily calculate the value of solar for their home. The familiarity of the Google brand could help the tool reach a broader set of customers than the solar industry has to date. And if the tool is anywhere as accessible or easy to use as Google's search engine, Project Sunroof could help unlock previously dormant segments of the market. But despite its significant potential, Project Sunroof will need to prove it is as good as it sounds. The Google brand, after all, can only take it so far.
Notably, the project represents one of Google's first major forays into the residential solar space. Its smart home unit Nest Labs recently partnered with rooftop solar market leader SolarCity, while Google contributed $300 million to a SolarCity fund that helps finance solar installations. Google has also invested around $2 billion in energy assets, mostly utility-scale wind and solar projects. Google has long been seen by the utility industry as a distant yet immensely powerful threat -- and this latest move should only add weight to those theories.