Solar panels all over the gaff

Google launches ‘Project Sunroof’ solar power service in UK

Image credit: Pixabay

Google has launched its solar power service, Project Sunroof, in the UK, as an informative location-based analysis tool to help British homeowners save money on their energy bills by installing solar panels on their roofs.

In partnership with energy supplier E.on, Google has made its online tool available to the UK, starting today. The Project Sunshine tool collates data from Google's Earth and Maps apps to estimate potential savings if a household were to take advantage of available solar power.

Project Sunroof initially launched as a US-only service in 2015, followed by Germany in 2017. It uses satellite imagery and machine learning to estimate how much solar potential a particular property might have, taking into consideration certain features of the building, such as available roof surface area for solar panels, the pitch angle of the roof and local weather data, such as sun positioning, to determine the average number of hours of sunlight a roof gets per year.

Google claims that its data and analysis is detailed enough to be able to assess the impact of a single tree on a home's solar potential.

Jonathan Marshall, head of analysis at the non-profit organisation Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said that Project Sunroof "lowers the barriers" for homeowners by automatically inspecting roofing data using Google Earth imagery.

Speaking to the BBC, Marshall added: "By analysing the roof shape, they will take out one of the steps that you would have to go through to get solar panels installed. The speed of the process means that if you're half-tempted by the idea, you're more likely to go ahead with it."

Nicole Lombardo, head of partnerships at Google, said: "We are excited to help people in the UK make more informed choices about installing solar panels on their rooftops and transition to renewable energy sources."

Project Sunroof will initially be available in select regions of the UK, including Birmingham, Brighton, Liverpool, Newcastle, Reading and parts of London. The partnership between Google and E.on supports the UK’s stated target of producing 30 per cent renewable energy by 2020.

Anyone interested in checking out the solar viability of their home can go to the E.on solar web site and enter their postcode. The tool then reports on the potential cost savings of installing solar panels. E.on suggests that people who buy an E.on Solar and Storage package could typically save around £630 a year on their energy bill.

Google's Project Sunshine is not the first online solar power tool. Ikea, in conjunction with its technology partner Solarcentury, launched an online calculator in 2017 to support the Swedish home furnishing giant's move into selling solar panels and batteries in the UK, offering home solar systems for around £3K-5K. The Ikea calculator also uses Google Maps data. Tesla also launched its own service, Solar Roof Calculator, in the summer of 2017.

The use of clean, green energy is high on the agenda of Californian tech companies. Google has been on a zealous drive towards renewable energy since 2016, when it bought bought the entire output - approximately 12 years' worth of power - from a 50-turbine wind farm in Norway. This helped the company achieve its goal of being powered entirely by 100 per cent renewable energy in 2017. In April 2018, Apple announced that its own operations were globally powered by 100 per cent renewable energy, including 23 third-party suppliers in countries such as India and China.

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