Google's Project Sunroof: should you invest in solar?

In recent times South Africans have learned to live their life with the nasty notification looming that there will soon be load shedding. Affecting almost everyone to a point where we now schedule our days and meal times around it, its causing South Africa billions of rands in losses and scaring away investors. Load shedding seems to be staying for the foreseeable future.
An example of how “œnormal“ load shedding is to South Africans, is as simple as visiting any free standing McDonalds and you can see signs which reads “œThis store has a generator, never be left hungry“. The general public on the other hand, do not have the financial ability to pay thousands for generators, not to mention the cost of diesel and the noise that comes with a these generators. Solar panels are still an expensive option in South Africa with the costs of installation getting as high as R15000.
Google have recently launched a service called Project Sunroof. One of Google‘s engineers had been tasked with “œmapping the planets solar potential, one roof at a time“. This resulted in the creation of a website that used high-resolution aerial imagery and mapping, 3D modeling and data from Google Maps that would represent the amount of light that hits your roof top. The website “œfigures out how much sunlight hits your rooftop throughout the year, taking into account factors like roof orientation, shade from trees and nearby buildings, and local weather patterns“ and then “œcombines all this information to estimate the amount you could potentially save with solar panels“, Elkin said.
Project Sunroof suggests the amount of incident sunlight and the size of solar panel system a user would need and expected savings he could make if he switch to solar, based on the data from Google Maps, taking into account, the shadows from surrounding trees, chimneys and other structures, history of weather conditions and temperature patterns, local solar incentives like Federal and state tax credits, Utility rebates, Renewable energy credits and net metering and the user‘s average electricity bill. The website also provides a list of local solar panel installation companies. All we have to do is enter our address in the website.

Though this tool currently only works for Boston, San Francisco, and Fresno, it is definitely a step forward in the “eco-wars”. There definitely is a need for a website with the capabilities to educate Africans in the potential for renewable energy and where to implement it, as some have wondered if they would be able to harness the required power necessary to justify the cost of solar panels. Currently there are some initiatives in place in South Africa that allows one to get some of the costs back when purchasing solar panels. Renewable energy is an important part of the tech world as cheaper and more advanced technology will soon make these options affordable. As an “œeco-fighter“, this could not have come any sooner.