What is Project Sunroof?

By Phill Powell

Google’s defined the online world. Now the tech giant wants to save the natural world…while saving you money at the same time. Project Sunroof is Google’s new initiative to encourage homeowners to explore the possibility of using solar power in their homes.


Google uses Google Maps to create a “treasure map of solar energy.”

Everything Under the Sun
Project Sunroof assumes that the average homeowner doesn’t really know if solar energy is a viable option for their home. Sunroof’s website includes several solar-power resources, and helps homeowners gather information about converting their home to solar power.

Sunroof makes use of data that Google collected but didn’t use. Sunroof uses Google Maps’ 3D modeling to calculate the amount of roof space a building has (for solar panels) and also analyzes the positioning of the sun over the course of a year. It also looks at weather patterns and other objects that may affect sunlight or cast shadows, like cloud cover and trees.

Project_Sunroof_shade_patterns
Google’s aerial photos of American homes can help determine how much sunlight each roof collects. (Image: Google)

Does your house get enough sunlight each day to make solar power worthwhile? There’s no single answer for all homeowners, since different homes receive different amounts of sunlight due to shade from trees (or other buildings) and other variables. But Google is able to tell each homeowner how much sunlight they can expect to collect – on average a homeowner can save about $20,000 switching to solar.

Turning Sunshine into Cash
On Google’s Project Sunroof website, a homeowner can also get answers to these questions:

  • How much money can I save each month on my power bill, if I equip the house with solar panels?
  • What would it cost to retrofit my house with solar panels and storage equipment?
  • What local solar contractors are licensed and available to install a solar panel system?

Sunroof will first become active in three major cities (Boston, San Francisco and Fresno) before going nationwide. If you’re in one of those areas, Sunroof’s Sun Estimator site, will tell you how much sun your home is getting and provide savings estimates if you convert to solar.

Google_Project_Sunroof_aerial_view
Google Maps offers sun-power stats on nearly every U.S. home (and soon the rest of the world) (Image: Google).

Here Comes the Sun
Project Sunroof demonstrates how the worlds of tech are constantly interacting and overlapping. In this case, an Internet-based technology company is actively promoting solar-power technology.

But nowhere do the tech worlds overlap more than at Digital Media Academy tech camps, where kids and teens come together each summer to explore their creative passions in science and engineering camps. Or they can excel in programming, filmmaking, game design, animation, app development, music production, robotics, graphic design and much more.