Evaluation of Google Project Sunroof

For a long time people were at the mercy of  their local Solar salesman to evaluate the feasibility of a solar installation on their dwellings.

They would be presented with reports  that would have inflated numbers and paint a very rosy picture. The reports would often suggest a very high  return on investment (ROI)  discounting the local obstructions that would cause shading. They would also discount localized weather patterns that would hinder solar installation efficiency. The salesmen would find themselves in a position where a conflict of interest would be obvious.

For more than a decade, there have been tools available online that did help in finding honest estimates of solar yield. However these tools were cumbersome and required a bit of knowledge in learning specialised terms. This made them difficult to use, particularly for someone with a non-technical background.

Screenshot from Google Project Sunroof

Screenshot from Google Project Sunroof

Enter Google’s Project Rooftop. It is the first tool of its kind  that helps ordinary people in finding accurate solar yield estimates.  Project Rooftop is a web based utility that allows user to key in their address. Once they have located their rooftop on Google map like screen, the tool works in the background to find estimate of solar yield. It takes into account local obstructions (trees, lamp post, signs, other roof) and calculates the shadows subtended by these structures.  It has access to detailed weather data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Google Project Rooftop not only furnishes the savings one can make over a period of time but also suggests suppliers that would help you achieve the goal.

So far Project Rooftop only covers USA but there are plans to roll it out to other countries. It is not the first time Google has ventured into something that has been extremely helpful to its user. Google maps has revolutionised the way we navigate.

It is expected that in due time, Google may also release similar tool for finding out wind energy yield. Google already has the topographical data of the whole world. It similarly has access to hourly weather data that has been recorded over decades. All it needs to do is to generate a few algorithms that would bring together that information in a manner that can be beneficial for a user looking to install wind turbine.

For a list of  free online tools for renewable energy technology, click here.

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