That Google has an innovative attitude is hardly news to anyone. In August 2015 the company launched Project Sunroof, a project led by Carl Elkin that informs home owners on the suitability for solar panels. Only available in the US, the project expanded from just a few metropolitan areas back then, to over 20 US areas today. Once you type in your address and the current amount you spend on electricity, the website calculates how well panels work on your roof (in other words: how many panels would you have to install). This database contains information on the orientation of the roof, the height of trees and buildings in the direct environment, and local weather conditions.
An important advantage of the service is the low effort and cost it takes to find out how well your roof supports the panels. This online individual estimation of costs and savings is especially easy in contrast to similar services that currently exist. Some online tools or average calculations are provided that lead consumers to roughly estimate or compare the costs. However these tools are not individually adapted or require a lot of input that is not always known to house owners.
The project has a strong reputational aspect. You can share your findings and stimulate neighbors or family to do the same. Furthermore, the company raises attention for one of the most prominent issues of today: the environment. By lowering barriers to budget the investment of renewable energy sources, the company stimulates at least consideration and maybe even action of users.
A crucial limitation of the project is that it is only available in some metropolitan areas in the US. The website does offer you to subscribe by e-mail to stay updated on the state of coverage. Also, considering the strong expansion in less than 6 months, it might be possible that other areas are being covered soon.
Other drawbacks relate to the accuracy of information. While Google can claim to have the correct information to calculate potential savings, no information is available on how these predictions turn out to be true yet. In order to pass this issue, the project also directs to a possibility for requesting a second opinion to the National Renewable Energy Labarotory´s-tool that calculates energy production of solar panels based on minimal input.
The website recommends local companies that offer installments of the solar panels. However, it is important to note that these links are sponsored and therefore might not generate the best deal for consumers. This issue also goes hand in hand with the integrity of Google. You might want to question to what extent Google benefits from this project and the gathering of even more private information of consumers.
In conclusion the project is still in its initiation phase and the involvement of Google raises some privacy concerns. However, the project offers great opportunities for consumers to start thinking about renewable energy and estimating potential costs. It might even be that Project Sunroof contributes, also if it´s just a tiny bit, to a more sustainable world.