Google seems to have its hands in everybody’s cookie jar. But, is it because they want to steal them? In the case of Project Sunroof, maybe they just want to make sure you’ve got the right cookies.

Launched in 2015, Project Sunroof started as a map that showed which houses have enough sun exposure to make the installation of solar panels a practical energy source. Until recently, the map only covered three areas:

  • The San Francisco Bay Area
  • Fresno, CA
  • Boston, MA

Now, that’s changed. Google has expanded the feature to cover the entire nation. Its database includes over 60 million buildings. If you’re familiar with Google Earth, you’ll have an idea of what’s at work here. They’ve used this resource to map rooftop surface areas.

With this in place, Project Sunroof uses weather patterns, sunlight positioning changes, and even possible shade from nearby buildings, to provide you with an assessment on the solar energy potential of your rooftop.

What Google found

Analysis of the data turned up some interesting facts:

  • 79% of America’s rooftops receive enough sunlight to be considered as “technically viable” for solar.
  • Hawaii, Arizona, and New Mexico receive enough sunlight to make more than 90% of the rooftops in these states a good choice for solar panels.
  • Pennsylvania, Maine, and Minnesota are running a bit below the average, with 60% viability
  • Houston wins the honor of having the highest solar potential of any US city. Google estimates that this Texas coastal city could generate nearly 19,000GWh or solar energy each year.

Google bases these determinations on 1 petabyte (that’s 1,000 terabytes) of collected data. It includes information in height and color for 43 million homes (the rest of the 60 million structures are office and commercial buildings). The database also uses information about local electricity rates, as well as more than 1,000 state and local solar energy incentives.

Why is Google doing this?

The top answer is that they are a forward-thinking company. Google supports and invests in project and companies that make energy efficiency a priority. The company also realized that while many homeowners like the idea of using renewable energy sources such as solar, they’re just not sure about the return on investment. Project Sunroof can give any homeowner—or business owner—a data-backed answer. And it won’t cost you a penny to find out.

Many communities around the country have begun to explore solar gardens as a way to complement the utility that provides electricity in their area. The Project Sunroof has expanded the information to include the viability of entire communities. You can use this tool to see the potential of what a solution like a solar garden could provide for your community or your business.

Local companies are discovering the value of teaming up with others in their business community and subscribing to our Minnesota solar gardens. They’ll see savings of up to 10% on office utility bills. Even better, there’s absolutely no cost involved—and there are no solar panels that go up on their rooftops. Solar energy with no rooftop panels? That’s the beauty of a solar garden. Read more about it here.