Google and Project Sunroof

Mapping the planet’s solar energy potential, one rooftop at a time

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Project Sunroof

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.

 

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!

Images courtesy of Google

The Most Important Hour of Your Life

Step 1: If possible get out into nature where you can feel the natural pace of the earth and not the hyperactive and inhumane pace of modern life.

Step 2: Write down the question “What would I do if I only had a week left to live?” and take 10 minutes to write down your answer.

Step 3: Write down the question, “What would I do if I only had a month left to live?” and take 10 minutes to write down your answer.

Step 4: Write down the question, “What would I do if I only had a year left to live?” and take 10 minutes to write down your answer.

Step 5: Write down the question, “What would I do if I only had five years left to live?” and take 10 minutes to write down your answer.

Step 6: Write down the question, “What would I do if I only had a life left to live?” and take 10 minutes to write down your answer.

Step 7: Finally, take 10 minutes to reread all of your answers while asking yourself, “How can I design my routine this week to more closely align with these answers?”

Is a Cargo Bike In My Future

I was reading the following article earlier today and wondered if just like families I might find a cargo bike in my future.  Head over to read the article on the NYTimes, see some of it below.

Dave Hoverman and his wife, Abby Smith, in Berkeley, Calif., with their cargo bike, which can hold all four children.CreditJason Henry for The New York Times

When Dave Hoverman, 38, a business strategy consultant in Berkeley, Calif., goes to Costco on the weekends, he ditches his Audi Q7 and instead loads his four children into a Cetma cargo bike with a trailer hitched to the rear.

“We do all sorts of errands on the bike,” Mr. Hoverman said. “We try not to get in the car all weekend.”

Mr. Hoverman is among a growing contingent of eco-minded and health-conscious urban parents who are leaving their car keys at home and relying on high-capacity cargo bikes for family transportation.

Cargo bikes initially catered to the “hard-core D.I.Y. crowd — people who wanted to carry around really large objects like surfboards or big speakers or kayaks,” said Evan Lovett-Harris, the marketing director for Xtracycle, a company in Oakland, Calif., that introduced its first family-oriented cargo model, the EdgeRunner, in 2012. Cargo bikes, he said, now account for the largest proportion of the company’s sales.

“When we first started selling these bikes 15 years ago, we were the total freako weirdos,” said Ross Evans, the company’s founder. “Back then, a basket on your handlebars was considered fringe.”

These days, cargo bikes are no longer a novelty: They are cropping up not just in the expected West Coast enclaves like Seattle, Portland and the Bay Area, but in cities like New Haven, Tucson and Dallas. “It used to be that if I saw somebody in Boston on a cargo bike, I probably knew them and probably helped them buy their bicycle,” said Nathan Vierling-Claassen, who has ridden a cargo bike since 2008. “Now that’s no longer the case.”

Cargo bikes are also popular in Washington. Jon Renaut, 37, a software engineer at the Department of Homeland Security, said that he is one of more than a dozen parents at his children’s elementary school who commute to school and work by cargo bike. “There have been only two days this whole school year — when it was really, really snowy out — that we left the bike at home,” Mr. Renaut said. What helps keep his 4- and 6-year-old daughters warm, he said, is to have them face backward while riding.

The popularity of cargo bikes has given rise to more variety. Cargo bikes come in two main types: longtails, which look like a regular bike with a large rack extended over the rear wheel, and the Dutch-style bakfiets, which has a cargo box mounted in front of the handlebars. While longtails are considerably cheaper (a Yuba Mundo starts at $1,300), bakfiets (which start at about $3,000) can generally hold more.

“The thing I love about cargo bikes these days is that there is such an amazing selection,” said Shane MacRhodes, 43, who manages a school transportation program in Eugene, Ore. “People are finding bikes that really fit their lifestyle. Some people like the sturdiness of a Yuba Mundo, and some people like the sporty zippy ones. It’s almost like the S.U.V. versus the sports wagon.”