Google’s Project Sunroof sheds light on potential of solar energy

Enrique Dans
May 6, 2017 · 3 min read

Google’s Project Sunroof is a way to generate solar power using Google Earth and Google Maps to calculate the sunshine a certain house receives, estimate the size of its roof and, in conjunction with electricity utilities to establish a framework for potential savings on the monthly bill. Obviously, the clearest value proposition is for those living in houses, but it can also be used in apartment blocks. The project, created in August 2015, was originally available only in the US, but has now been launched in Germany too in association with E.ON, a traditional electricity company.

In a country like Spain, where there is a lot of sunshine, but which isn’t used thanks to widespread corruption that has led to a “sun tax”, which aims to discourage self-generation in homes, Project Sunroof could be a very important way for people to get a real idea of ​​what they are missing out on by not taking advantage of a source of energy like the sun.

There are still skeptics who say that solar energy is not profitable if it is not subsidized, which is no longer true, or who point to isolated cases of fraud where the owners of solar farms used diesel generators to generate energy at night (which was not even fraud as such, but reserve generating capacity brought about by an artificially established term imposed on the owners), but the simple truth is that not taking advantage of generating capacity is completely absurd, and the costs, leaving aside Project Sunroof’s calculations, add up in environmental terms.

We need to be realistic about our expectations. It is quite possible that in many cases, domestic solar generation will not cover all the needs of a home. In winter, with fewer hours of sunshine and higher demand for electricity, it is likely that users will have to turn to an electricity utility to cover certain times. It may well be that power companies own and operate distributed generation solar panels, but even so, we will have gained a lot in environmental terms.

Projects like this are necessary in Spain to understand what we are missing out on. In Germany they need Project Sunroof to calculate what they would save: in Spain, we need it to understand how much corrupt politicians are stealing from us through criminal taxes. We need it to highlight what there is, to pressure government to remove the sun tax.

If Google wants to make a difference with its project, Spain is a good place to start, and by showing how closed our minds our to the potential of solar power and the corruption of our politicians. It will be interesting to see if any of the power companies in Spain decide to answer Google’s challenge and join in this great project.


(En español, aquí)

On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

Enrique Dans

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Enrique Dans
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