Solar energy costs are at a record low in the US and the country’s solar capacity is expected to double over the next two years, according to projections from the Solar Energy Industries Association. Following landmark agreements reached at COP21 in Paris in 2015, US President Barack Obama pledged USD$120 million to boost solar power and other clean energy sources. According to a report by The Solar Foundation, jobs in solar energy have doubled in the last five years, now outnumbering the number of people working in oil and gas.
Given that the solar energy industry is growing so fast and is becoming an increasingly central component in the United States’ climate change policy, it is surprising that many Americans still feel solar power is out of reach for their personal homes. Misperceptions about the cost, viability, and effectiveness still persist, and many homeowners fail to consider it as a solution for themselves.
Enter Project Sunroof, an initiative begun by Google to help homeowners assess the costs and benefits of installing rooftop solar panels.
The online tool combines Google’s extensive mapping data with information on weather patterns and shadow obstructions to allow customers to determine how much they could save on their energy bill by using solar power. Users enter their address and average monthly electric bill and the program factors in solar lease and loan options as well as federal and state tax credits to generate the estimated cost.
The program also provides contact information for solar providers in the user’s area to help get them started on the process.
Project Sunroof was introduced in 2015, starting in three test cities: Boston, San Francisco, and Fresno. Now, it is expanding into 20 metropolitan areas spanning California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Nevada, and Arizona.
The Huffington Post reported that Google has invested more than USD$1 billion in solar energy in recent years, including SolarCity Corp., an organization that finances residential rooftop projects.
With the expansion of Google’s new online service, information on solar energy will be more accessible, and homeowners wishing to make the switch will be better informed and better equipped to do so.