If you’re in America, and envious that China doubled its total solar energy output last year, Google wants to help you do your bit for renewables. The company has updated its Project Sunroof tool to include 3D models of 60 million rooftops across all 50 states. The company has looked at things such as local weather, how many pesky trees might be blocking sunlight, and how much solar energy a rooftop can generate, and offers owners frank advice over whether it’s worth them joining the clean energy revolution.
The take-home headline from the update? 79% of rooftops analysed are “technically viable” for solar panels. If you live in Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada or New Mexico, your home is very likely to fit into that category (90% of the buildings studied), whereas if you’re in Pennsylvania, Maine or Minnesota things look decidedly less sunny (just above 60%).
Top of the list of cities overall is Houston, Texas which – according to Google’s data – could provide a whopping 18,940 gigawatt-hours of energy per year. The company estimates that a single gigawatt-hour is enough to power 90 homes for a year, meaning that cities like Los Angeles (14,905GWh), Phoenix (11,686GWh) and San Antonio (10,648GWh) could make a huge impact if every viable building joined the solar party.
In fact, if every one of those cities maxed out on solar panels, Google estimates that 8 million homes could be powered for a year. Wowsa.
Of course, it’s beyond Google’s power to install solar panels on every house, but it is at least making it as easy as possible for conscientious Americans to explore the possibility. Just head to the Project Sunroof website, enter your address, and the tool will provide estimates of how much energy you can generate, alongside the cost of leasing or buying the panels.
Sadly, if you head to the site from Australia as I just did, you’ll find an apologetic note saying it’s not available to us yet. Still, you can play with a demo and explore the US data. Picking a New York address entirely at random I found the lucky occupants could save around $US9,000 per year through 1,404 hours of usable sunlight per year. Unfortunately, the building’s owner doesn’t seem too interested in doing his bit to fight climate change.