Google lights up Project Sunroof for testing solar energy savings

Project Sunroof builds upon the aerial images in Google Earth to hone in and estimate a given home's solar energy savings potential.

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Solar panels installed on roofs aren't terribly unfamiliar in many urban areas these days.

But Google is looking to put a new spin on the energy savings route with the newly unveiled Project Sunroof.

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In a nutshell, Project Sunroof builds upon the aerial images in Google Earth to hone in and estimate a given home's solar energy savings potential.

For users living in the handful of test regions at the moment, homeowners just enter their addresses and Sunroof will respond with the estimate based on a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) local weather patterns, tree shade, and average electric bills.

The venture is actually the brainchild of engineering lead Carl Elkin, who designed Project Sunroof as the result of Google's "20 percent time" offering, an initiative encouraging employees to dedicate a fifth of their time to side projects. Some of the more famous tools said to have been produced through 20 percent time include Gmail and Adsense.

Elkin presented his case for Sunroof and solar energy panels in a blog post on Monday:

The cost of solar power is at a record low. A typical solar home can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year on their electricity bill. But, 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." Certainly many of them are missing out on a chance to save money and be green.

Project Sunroof has commenced its pilot program in the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno, Calif. and Boston with the promise to make it more widely available in the coming months.

For a closer look at Project Sunroof, check out the promo clip below:

Image via Google