Google Is Helping 3 Cities Weigh the Solar Power Option

Mapping how much sun buildings get.

(Photo by Pujanak)

Wondering whether your house gets enough sunlight to make solar panels worth it? Well, if you live in Boston, San Francisco or Fresno, you’re in luck. Google is launching an online tool for those three cities called Sunroof that will tell users how much sun hits each building, by entering a street address. If successful, the program could expand across the U.S. — at a time when many cities and states are considering the costs and benefits of solar energy more seriously.

Solar power increased by 41 percent in 2013 and 30 percent over that in 2014.

Solar panels are getting more affordable, which, combined with Google’s new database, could be the proof some city-dwellers need to be convinced that the sun is the way to go. Sunroof will help the curious figure the cost of installing panels, what type of energy yield they could expect and even point them to local experts if they’re ready to get started.

Google has a history of investing in green energy, including hundreds of millions in support of solar power.

Engadget tested out the service for AOL’s building in San Francisco.

It told us that we received 1,840 hours of usable sunlight per year. In addition, we learned that we have roughly 15,641 square feet of available space that we could use to install solar panels. It then took us through our options, letting us know that we’d save $14,000 if we leased the hardware, or $24,000 if we bought them outright.

Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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Tags: solar powerutilitiesgoogle

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