landscape with solar panel

Google Beams up New Environmental Initiative Titled ‘Project Sunroof’

By: Amy Woods, September 3, 2015

Homeowners who have wanted to go solar but didn’t know the best way to go about it now can see the light thanks to Google.

The No. 1 search-engine company has turned its powerful mapping software into a tool that can measure the roof area of any home on the planet and calculate its sun exposure on any given day. So for those weighing the costs of solar panels against the savings they might (or might not) effect, the new program answers the question of whether installing them is beneficial.

Carl Elkin, lead engineer for “Project Sunroof,” announced the new environmental initiative in a post on Google’s Green Blog.

“As a volunteer with the Boston-based solar program Solarize Massachusetts and a solar homeowner myself, I’ve always been surprised at how many people I encounter who think that “my roof isn’t sunny enough for solar,” or “solar is just too expensive,” Elkin wrote. “Certainly many of them are missing out on a chance to save money and be green.”


Key in your address on the “Project Sunroof” Web site, and Google will spit back an estimate of how much money you will save by investing in solar panels. After a home in San Anselmo, Calif., was entered into the field, the results came back in less than one second: 1,771 hours of usable sunlight per year; 1,295 square feet available for solar panels; and $12,000 in net savings over 20 years. The hours are based on a day-to-day analysis of weather patterns. The square footage is based on three-dimensional modeling of the roof and nearby trees. And the savings can be fine-tuned by inputting other factors such as the cost of your monthly electric bill and how you want to finance the purchase of the panels.

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For now, “Project Sunroof” is in its early test phases and only available in the Boston area, San Francisco Bay area and Fresno, Calif. Its roll out coincides with a White House effort to encourage low- and moderate-income families and households to go solar.

“Google has always been a big believer in zero-carbon energy, and solar power has been a central part of that vision…,” Elkin wrote.


With the green movement becoming an ever-increasing part of everyday life, saving energy is top of mind. And with the price of solar slowly but surely coming down, homeowners are looking at it as an option for lowering their energy costs.

“Project Sunroof” aims to further the green movement and take the guesswork out of installing solar panels.

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