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CLIMATE ACTION PROGRAMME

20 March 2017

Google concludes nearly 80% of US rooftops suitable for solar

Google’s 'Project Sunroof' tool reveals the vast untapped potential for rooftop solar installations in the U.S.

Since 2015, the project has analysed around 60 million buildings across the U.S. concluding that 79 per cent are technically viable for generating solar power.

In sunnier states, including Hawaii, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada, up to 90 per cent of rooftops are viable, while in states like Pennsylvania, Maine and Minnesota around 60 per cent of rooftops are suitable.

According to the data, Houston in Texas has the most solar panel potential of any U.S. city, with an estimated 18.9 gigawatt hours (GWh) of rooftop solar generation potential per year, just ahead of Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio and New York.

The data suggests that if the top 10 U.S. cities for solar potential installed their full solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity, they would produce enough energy to power eight million homes across the U.S. each year.

The tool uses data from Google Maps and Google Earth, combined with 3D modelling and machine learning for the research, while calculating and taking into account weather patterns and the position of the sun at different parts of the year.

The tool’s search function allows users to find the solar electricity potential of individual roofs.

In addition, Project Sunroof advises on the best size solar installation for your property, estimates how much energy it will generate and how much it would cost to buy or lease the panels.

The large amount of data being collected makes the tool useful to not only consumers but also for solar companies looking to attract customers as well as academic researchers.

Google itself is aiming to source 100 per cent renewable energy to power its business and operations this year, making it one of the largest purchasers of renewables in the world. 

Furthermore, a growing number of cities are committing to 100 per cent renewable energy targets.

Last month, Pueblo, Colorado, and Moab, Utah, became the 22nd and 23rd cities in the United States to commit to 100 per cent renewable energy targets.

Earlier that month, the state of Massachusetts announced a bill that commits the state to meet all of its energy needs from renewables by 2050.

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