Google Maps is an incredible tool. It can show you the world around you. It can show you the most direct route from A to Z in almost any country in the world. He can direct you to the best pizzeria in town and help you avoid traffic.
But can it save you money on your electricity bill?
Uh, for real Yes . Meet Project Luke. This neat idea originated in one of the 20% of Google projects where engineers can devote a fifth of their time to interests and projects.
Simply put, Project Sunroof allows homeowners to evaluate the benefits they would receive from installing solar panels. And it’s too easy.
Practicing Project Luke
Right now, Project Sunroof is only available in a few select markets; the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno, and (oddly) Boston. The latter, of course, is not particularly known for its year-round sunshine and warm weather. Rather, it is harsh winters and a 75-foot pile of snow that finally melted in June.
The Sunroof project aims to show consumers the potential savings that can be gained from owning photovoltaic appliances by viewing them property and perform calculations based on geographic and weather data.
It not only shows the average amount of sunlight per year, but also displays the square meters of the roof that could potentially be covered with cells. They are then used to calculate the potential annual savings that can be realized.
It even takes into account the orientation and location of foliage and trees, weather conditions, and even the shadows cast by nearby buildings. It’s so good.
You can get a better idea of how much money you would save by entering a typical monthly electricity bill.
Based on this, he can estimate how big your solar array should be.
It even breaks down the benefits of leasing, buying, and buying through solar plant financing.
If you’re convinced by this, Google may be able to put you in touch with some solar companies that will get back to you.
«Solar bar on every roof, on every building»
It’s not hard to see why Google is so eager to get everyone on board when it comes to solar power. They are big fans and have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in building solar infrastructure around the world.
Google is one of the largest investors in Solar City, putting $280 million into the company to support funding for small solar projects across the US.
They are also one of the key financiers of the Jasper Power Project. This 96-megawatt power plant is located in Postmusburg, in South Africa’s Kimberley, and is the largest solar power plant in all of Africa.
To use the startup term, Google «eats its own dog food.» Their flagship campus in Mountain View, California is attached to a 1.9-megawatt purpose-built solar power plant. This is so large that it can provide 30% of the capacity of the Googleplex during peak hours. This is quite remarkable considering that Google employs 11,000 out of 57,000 people. It’s almost like a small town.
Google is not only interested in financially supporting solar technology (especially in the US, where SolarCity operates), but also has a deep philosophical interest.
This is a company that makes great efforts to emphasize its green qualities. They even designed their tensile, power-hungry data center that will use nearly 50% less power than traditional data centers. Drawing on their experience in this area for the consumer seems to me a very simple matter.
Why is it important
For a long time, solar technologies have struggled to break into the mainstream. This is largely due to the fact that they are extremely expensive in terms of upfront costs and the relatively meager electricity provided in return. In fact, they were actually commercially viable thanks to massive government investment and subsidies.
For the most part, they either end or have already disappeared. But it’s not all bad news for the consumer.
Gigafactory Elon Musk’s battery factory is gearing up to produce affordable lithium-ion batteries that can harvest all of the off-peak electricity generated cheaply.
We’re going to see perovskite-based photovoltaic cells. entered a market that promises to exponentially increase its efficiency from 10% to 30%. They also promise to do it at a lower cost by incorporating better manufacturing and design processes.
In short, we are seeing solar technology (and companion battery technology) become cheap and attractive enough that one day we may not need government subsidies.
But while this technology exists, it lacks a good marketing tool. Google Maps, with its near-universal reach and trust status, may be enough to push consumers to make the final decision and invest in their own solar cells. Especially when they see a potential financial surprise.
For governments too
I also see some useful applications for this in a government context.
The beauty of Project Sunlight is that it’s cold, fact-based, and data-driven. Used properly, this can help local governments plan where to invest in solar subsidies, highlighting where they will work best and where they won’t.