How to go solar with these two super tools

Years ago when Google Earth was launched, we were all amazed at the levels of details provided. It was just very impressive. Now Google does it again with a most interesting feature: Google Project Sunroof.

Just by typing your US address (in one of the populated areads, cf map below) you get a full analysis of your house solar potential with how many hours of usable sun the roof is getting and how many square feet are available.

This is already quite fantastic but this doesn’t stop there. The tool also tells you what capacity you should install and gives you indication on how you could finance the project and by how much it would be financailly profitable. It even considers the various ways of financing available to private investors: Lease, Loan or Buy.

For more US residents, this makes starting going solar as litterally typing your address on a computer.


To Google, 79 percent of the 60 million roofs surveyed are sunny enough for solar PV. Of course, location make this percentage vary widely as ” Over 90 percent of homes in Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico are technically viable, while states like Pennsylvania, Maine and Minnesota reach just above 60 percent viability. “

The press release even gives a ranking of the cities with the largest solar potential and this is where the numbers start to look big.

  1. Houston, TX : 19 TWh (or million MWh or billion kWh)
  2. Los Angeles, CA : 15 TWh
  3. Phoenix, AZ : 12 TWh
  4. San Antonio, TX, 11 TWh
  5. New York City : 9 TWh

Covering all possible roofs with solar photovoltaic panels in just these five cities would cover 1.65 percent of the total US electricity consumption (which in 2014 was over 4,000 TWh. Let us hope energy efficiency decreases that figure…)

Sidenote for those not familiar with electricity measurement units : a terawatt-hour (TWh) is a thousand gigawatt-hour (GWh). To Google a GWh is enough electricity for 90 US homes…


For those not living in the United States, there is an interesting alternative called the Global Solar Atlas. Mapping most of the Earth you just need to enter your address anywhere on Earth (or point to a place) and the tool will give you valuable information such as photovoltaic electrical output as well as an estimate of the electricity you could produce.

Of course, unlike the Google project, one would still have to contact local solar installers to get quotes and discuss about financing. But this is still very impressive !

The Global Solar Atlas was done for the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation. The data was provided by Solargis. As per the about page of the website, “Its primary aim of this Global Solar Atlas is to provide quick and easy access to solar resource data globally, at a click of a mouse.”


To conclude, I believe that these tools will help the solar revolution go even faster by helping homeowners and businesses see how much energy (and money) they could generate.

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