The cost of solar power is at a record low. A typical solar home can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year on their electricity bill.  But, as a volunteer with the Boston-based solar program Solarize Massachusetts and a solar homeowner myself, I’ve always been surprised at how many people I encounter who think that “my roof isn’t sunny enough for solar,” or “solar is just too expensive.” Certainly many of them are missing out on a chance to save money and be green.

Enter Project Sunroof, my recent 20% project. Project Sunroof is a new online tool we’re testing to help homeowners explore whether they should go solar. Available in the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno (in central California), and the Boston area for now, the tool uses high-resolution aerial mapping (the same used by Google Earth) to help you calculate your roof’s solar energy potential, without having to climb up any ladders.
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If you’re in one of our test regions, simply enter your address and Project Sunroof will crunch the numbers. It first figures 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. You can also enter your typical electric bill amount to customize the results. The tool then combines all this information to estimate the amount you could potentially save with solar panels, and it can help connect you with local solar providers.
Google has always been a big believer in zero-carbon energy, and solar power has been a central part of that vision -- from accelerating the growth of rooftop solar, to helping finance the largest solar farm in Africa, to building one of America’s biggest campus solar arrays here in Mountain View. While Project Sunroof is in a pilot phase for now, during the coming months we’ll be exploring how to make the tool better and more widely available. If you find that your address isn’t covered by the tool yet, you can leave your email address and we’ll let you know when Project Sunroof is ready for your rooftop! 

Posted by Carl Elkin, Engineering Lead for Project Sunroof

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

In less than five months, policymakers from around the world will gather in Paris to finalize a new global agreement on combating climate change. Already, many governments are putting forth ambitious emissions reduction goals. And companies are taking action, too, by reducing their own footprints and investing in clean energy.

Reaching a strong deal in Paris is an absolute and urgent necessity. The data is clear and the science is beyond dispute: a warming planet poses enormous threats to society.

Public health experts recently warned that climate change threatens to “undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health,” through forces like extreme weather, drought, malnutrition, and disease. The U.S. government has asserted that climate change poses “immediate risks to U.S. national security,” as increased natural disasters and humanitarian crises fuel instability and violence. And many studies have revealed that critical infrastructure, like electricity and water, is vulnerable to rising sea levels and intensifying storms.

Climate change is one of the most significant global challenges of our time. Rising to that challenge involves a complex mix of policy, technology, and international cooperation. This won’t be easy, but Google is committed to doing its part.

Google has been carbon neutral since 2007. Our data centers, the physical infrastructure behind web services used by billions of people, now get 3.5 times the computing power out of the same amount of electricity, as compared to five years ago. We are also the biggest corporate purchaser of renewable power on the planet. Just today at the White House, we pledged to triple those purchases over the next decade. In addition, we're a major climate-minded investor, so far committing more than $2 billion to clean energy projects, from America’s largest wind farm to Africa’s largest solar power plant.

We're serious about environmental sustainability not because it’s trendy, but because it’s core to our values and also makes good business sense. After all, the cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use in the first place. And in many places clean power is cost-competitive with conventional power.

We’re making progress, but averting catastrophic climate change will require significant investment and bold innovations. Google and our private-sector peers are ready to lead. But something fundamental is required: clear policy. The global business community needs certainty to bring climate solutions to scale. We need the world’s political leaders to confirm that investments in clean energy are sound, and that the laws and policies meant to enable such investment will be designed for the long term and rooted in what science tells us needs to be done.

It’s encouraging to see the world’s major economies set ambitious climate targets, but it’s time to get a strong international climate agreement on the books. This December in Paris, it’s imperative that policymakers reach a deal that moves us toward a zero-carbon economy. That’s the kind of future that we’re committed to helping build, and that future generations deserve.

Posted by Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman

According to NASA, 2014 was the warmest year ever. Yet when Google’s News Lab looked at city-level search trends related to climate change over the past decade, we found that interest around "global warming" was actually higher in 2007 than it is today in many major cities. Google is deeply committed to environmental sustainability and renewable energy, and raising awareness about these issues is part of the solution. That's why, in 2013, we became the internet and technology partner of Solar Impulse, a project aiming at flying around the world on a plane using only solar power, in order to raise awareness for what's possible with clean technology and renewable energy.

On the first day of their round-the-world journey, we jointly launched the #FutureIsClean initiative: a platform to encourage the world to support the adoption of necessary clean technological solutions ahead of the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21).

Since Solar Impulse took off from Abu Dhabi in March 2015, it has completed 8 out of 12 legs, completing nearly half of the journey. The most recent leg took 117 hours and 52 minutes, breaking the world record for the longest solo flight. Despite the achievement, the plane's batteries sustained some damage, postponing the second half of their round-the-world solar flight until April 2016. The plane will remain in Hawaii where it landed last.
Solar Impulse in Abu Dhabi before taking off for its first leg. The plane has a 230 feet wingspan (larger than a Boeing 747) and weighs no more than 5,000 pounds (equivalent to a car). © Solar Impulse|, March 2015

We're inspired by Solar Impulse's pioneering spirit that has allowed them to push the boundaries of clean and renewable technology, and we look forward to cheering them on next year as they complete their round-the-world trip.

Technology can help us do more with less. For example, making use of natural climates has helped us make our data centers 50% more efficient than the industry average, and green building technology has helped us limit energy consumption in our offices around the world. Now, we’re doing more with less to power Google’s North Bayshore campus in Mountain View.

We’ve recently signed a long-term agreement to purchase enough local wind energy to offset the electrical consumption of our North Bayshore headquarters on an annual basis. While we’ve been committed to being a carbon-neutral company since 2007, and we purchase clean energy for our data centers, this agreement is the first of its kind when it comes to our offices.

The agreement with NextEra Energy Resources will help to repower an iconic Bay Area wind farm at California’s Altamont Pass with new turbines that will pour 43 MW of electricity onto the grid starting in 2016. This new technology is twice as efficient, and also safer—especially for wildlife.
The new turbines will generate energy that feeds into the grid that powers our North Bayshore buildings in Mountain View. While these electrons can’t be traced once they enter the grid, we can measure how many of them leave the turbines, as well as how many we use on campus on an annual basis (tracked through a system of renewable energy credits, or RECs). So even though the electrons follow an untraceable path through the California electricity grid, we can be sure that we're offsetting the electrical consumption of our North Bayshore headquarters with the renewable energy from the new turbines.

Since our first wind investment in 2010, we’ve developed close relationships with renewable energy providers, helping us secure renewable energy agreements like this one for our campus and data centers—more than 1.1 gigawatt’s worth to date—and it’s also made it possible for us to make equity investments in 17 utility-scale renewable energy projects. And over the years we’ve been thrilled to see other California leaders, from tech companies to universities, also working to bring more renewable energy online.

Finally, if we can geek out for a minute: We think this project is especially cool because back in the 1980’s, the golden hills of Altamont Pass were an early test bed for the first large-scale wind power technology in the U.S. We’ve been blown away (pun intended :)) by how far turbine technology has come since then. Once the installation is complete, and the 370 legacy turbines are replaced, it will take just 24 new ones to generate as much power as our campus uses in a year. Talk about doing more with less.

Many of the world’s most innovative products have started in universities and academic institutions around the world. In fact, in 1996 Google founders Larry and Sergey began collaborating on an early search engine, which operated on Stanford servers for more than a year—eventually taking up too much bandwidth. So it only made sense to encourage academic researchers to try their skills at the Little Box Challenge to see if they could invent a smaller power inverter and help change the future of electricity.

We received over 100 applications from academic institutions for our Little Box Challenge grants and just announced the 10 recipients. Head on over to the Research at Google blog for the list, but then get back to work on shrinking those inverters!

Posted by Eric Raymond, Google Green Team

(Cross-posted from the Google Europe Blog)

The Netherlands is famous for its windmills, which over the years have been used to saw wood, mill corn, pump water and much more. Now, a new generation of Dutch windmill - wind turbines - will power a very 21st century facility: our new EUR 600m data center, currently under construction in the north of the Netherlands.

Thanks to a new long-term agreement signed this week with Dutch power company Eneco, our Eemshaven data center will be 100% powered by renewable energy from its first day of operation, scheduled for the first half of 2016. We’ve agreed to buy the entire output of a new Eneco windfarm -- currently under construction at Delfzijl, near Eemshaven -- for the next ten years.

By entering into long-term agreements like this one with wind farm developers, we’ve been able to increase the amount of renewable energy we consume while helping enable the construction of new renewable energy facilities.

This is the third such power purchase agreement (PPA) we’ve signed in Europe in the last 18 months - the other two were with wind farm developers in Sweden and will power our Hamina, Finland data center with renewable energy.

Eneco’s new wind farm is an onshore-offshore development, which will use 19 turbines to generate 62 MW of renewable energy. Eneco expects the construction of the wind farm to provide employment for 80 people over the next 18 months.

This marks our eighth long-term agreement to purchase renewable energy around the globe. We sign these contracts for a few reasons: they make great financial sense for us by guaranteeing a long term source of clean energy for our data center and they also increase the amount of renewable energy available in the grid, which is great for the environment.

Posted by Francois Sterin, Director, Global Infrastructure Team

In May 2013, we announced our first renewable energy investment in Africa. The Jasper Power Project is a 96-megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic (PV) plant in the Northern Cape province of South Africa, near Postmasburg. There is a lot of potential for solar in a country where the sun shines year round. From virtually no renewable energy in 2011, South Africa has awarded close to 4 gigawatts (GW) in wind and solar contracts to become one of the fastest growing renewable energy markets in the world.

Today, we’re happy to contribute to that momentum. The Jasper Project has completed construction and is capturing sunlight nearly two months ahead of schedule. In fact, with 325,000 PV modules, it is the largest solar energy plant in Africa. The project, developed and funded by SolarReserve, Intikon Energy and the Kensani Group, is also backed by Rand Merchant Bank, the Public Investment Corporation, Development Bank of South Africa and the PEACE Humansrus Trust.
Jasper Power Project PV panels
During construction, the Jasper Project created over 800 on-site construction jobs. As part of the South African Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REIPPPP), the project will also set aside a percentage of total revenues—approximately $26 million over the life of the project, for rural development and education programs.

The Jasper Project will deliver 180,000 megawatt-hours of renewable electricity annually for South Africa residents – enough to power up to 80,000 households. It’s promising to see South Africa continue to take advantage of its abundant wind and solar resources to bring more clean energy to the country’s power grid. The government has set an ambitious goal of generating 18 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy by 2030 and the Jasper Project is an important step into addressing the power shortages afflicting the country.

Posted by Coy Ross, Google energy asset manager