Making solar easierGoogle's stated mission is to "organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful". At first this mostly meant cataloguing and ranking web pages for search, but for many years now Google has ventured into the physical world with projects like Google Maps and Google Books. The latest project to come out of the Mountain View company is Project Sunroof, a website that aims to make it easier for homeowners to figure out if they should go solar, and if so, what the costs and benefits will be.
Here's some of what goes into the algorithm:
To provide accurate estimates, Project Sunroof uses a unique set of data that assesses how much sunlight your roof gets, the orientation, shade from trees and nearby buildings, and local weather patterns—essentially creating a solar score for every rooftop that it maps. You can then provide your current average electricity costs and compare them to what you'd pay with solar. So not only can you learn whether your house is a good fit for solar panels, but you can also determine whether paying for installation will pay off in the long run -- in short, see the effect sunlight can have on your wallet.
Google approaches this challenge as an aggregator, and at the end of the process they will refer you to solar installers that operate where you are (and no doubt get a referral fee for the service). It works a bit like these insurance or travel aggregators (Expedia, Tripadvisor, etc) that will price-compare for you so you don't have to go to 10 different sites yourself. It's a useful service, and anything that makes going solar more convenient is bound to make some people who are on the fence jump in.
While at first Project Sunroof was only available in 3 limited areas, it has now been expanded to 9 regions where solar is popular: Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, California, Connecticut, Nevada, and New York.
You can try a demo on the site here. If where you live isn't covered, you can also sign up to receive updates.
Here's the original video that Google made to explain Project Sunroof: