Google Project Sunroof
Google's Project Sunroof allows users to calculate how much sunlight their house will get each year and calculate how much money they could save by installing solar panels.Google

Google wants to leverage the huge amount of mapping data it has about the world to help people understand the benefits of using solar panels to generate electricity. Simply enter your address, and Google's Project Sunroof looks up your home on Google Maps and combines that information with other databases to create your "personalised roof analysis".

To create this analysis, Project Sunroof computes how much sunlight hits your roof in a year, taking into account factors like the shadows cast by nearby structures and trees. All possible sun positions over the course of a year are calculated, as well as historical cloud and temperature patterns that might affect solar energy production.

The project will then suggest an optimal installation size to generate close to 100% of your electricity needs based on your roof size and electricity bill. Google recommends an installation that covers less than 100% of your electrical usage "because in most areas there is little financial benefit to producing more power than you can consume". The service will even tell you how much savings you are likely to make annually by using solar panels.

At the moment Google's Project Sunroof is only available for people living in the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno and Boston - where the Project Sunroof team is located. However, Google says the service will soon be available throughout the US and potentially across the globe.

While Google insists that it doesn't share your information with anyone you don't want to share it with, Project Sunroof does offer those using it the chance to contact providers in their area, which, if the project is expanded, could offer Google a significant new stream of revenue.

The amount of electricity generated by solar in 2014 in the US grew by 30% compared to the previous year and represented almost $18bn (£11.5bn) in new investment during the year, according to research by Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research.