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Is Google nudging homeowners towards solar power?

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With Google’s announcement, this week of a novel new feature for their Project Sunroof initiative, the answer appears to be a resounding ‘yes’.

Project Sunroof is a tool from Google that allows you to estimate how much sun your home gets, what solar panels cost, and how much money solar panels could help you save over time.
Google's Project Sunroof enables you to see which homes in your neighbourhood have installed solar panels
Now, the new feature gives you the ability to see which areas of your neighbourhood already have solar panels installed. Google can do this thanks to machine learning algorithms to identify solar panels in images from Google Maps.

Carl Elkin, Senior Software Engineer at Project Engineer, describes how this was achieved:

“We started by taking in high-resolution imagery of rooftops and manually identifying solar installations. After many iterations, our machine learning algorithms can now automatically find and identify installations in the imagery.”
Find out how much sun your home gets, what solar panels cost, and how much money you could save with solar by using Google's Project Sunroof

The new feature comes on the back of research by Kenneth Gillingham, a professor of economics at Yale University, that found that you’re more likely to buy and install solar panels on your house if your neighbours do.

Gillingham elaborated on the research, indicating that there can be a ‘peer pressure’ style effect once solar panels visibly arrive in a neighbourhood:

“Over a six-month period, the presence of one solar rooftop project increased the average number of installations with a half-mile radius by nearly 50 per cent.”

With Google’s Project Sunroof scheduled to expand to more countries, we could see solar panels become an increasingly common sight in residential areas.

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