Environment

A new Google project to estimate solar potential has come to Louisville.

Last month, in a WFPL story about the extensive information the city collects through Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), experts talked about the potential to turn the data into solar maps for Louisville. Google’s project doesn’t use LiDAR information, but rather factors like roof space and weather data collected from the company’s vast trove of data.

Project Sunroof debuted a year ago in several large cities, but now has expanded. The tool uses Google’s satellite images to estimate solar potential of any given rooftop in the city — providing estimates of the viable space for panels and the amount of sun the roof soaks up in a given year.

People can look at any rooftop in the city (all you need is an address) and see how much usable sunlight the roof gets, as well as how much space is available for rooftop panels (the latter uses 3D modeling of the roof and nearby trees). Users can input their average monthly electric bill, and Project Sunroof will also recommend a solar installation size. There’s also a breakdown of how much that installation will cost, both immediately and over a 20 year period.

“Through innovative projects like Project Sunroof, Google hopes to make sustainability a reality for many,” said a Google spokesperson.

This kind of information is valuable for property owners considering solar. And in Louisville, which is in the middle of several initiatives to increase sustainability measures, it could help boost solar energy.

If Louisville’s Metro Government is serious about increasing sustainability measures and awareness, Project Sunroof shows several opportunities. Metro Government already has solar panels on the roof of the Metro Development Center (444 S. 5th Street), but several other large city-owned buildings also appear to be good candidates for rooftop solar panels:

•    Metro Hall (527 W. Jefferson Street) has more than 22,000 square feet available for solar panels and gets 1,553 hours of usable sunlight a year;

•    City Hall (601 W. Jefferson Street) has more than 12,000 square feet available for solar panels and gets 1,545 hours of usable sunlight a year;

•    The Hall of Justice (600 W. Jefferson Street) has more than 51,600 square feet available for solar panels and gets 1,576 hours of usable sunlight a year;

•    The Urban County Government Center (810 Barret Ave) has more than 26,600 square feet available for solar panels and gets 1,530 hours of usable sunlight a year.

The Louisville Sustainability Council also launched a solar advocacy program this year, with a goal to add 2 megawatts of solar capacity by the end of the year.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.