Unlocking A Sustainable Future? Here’s How the Google Maps Solar API is Empowering Solar Companies

Jerry Wallis
11 min read

As we traverse the path to a sustainable tomorrow, it is evident that the limitless potential of solar energy is going to play a big part for decades to come. To get there the Solar API from the Google Maps platform is an amazing step in the right direction. 

The Solar API was developed to help solar companies accelerate Solar Solutions around the world. It offers extensive data coverage available in over 40 countries with information on more than 320 million buildings. 

But what is it exactly? And how does it work? What can you do with it? We’ll answer all these questions and much more in this detailed guide.

What Is The Google Maps Solar API?

The Solar API offered by the Google Maps Platform is a specialised tool designed to expedite the installation of solar and energy systems. 

Leveraging Google’s extensive mapping and computational capabilities, this service provides comprehensive rooftop data to estimate the potential for renewable solar energy and associated cost savings.

Solar API utilises mapping and computational resources to provide detailed data on the solar potential of rooftops for over 320 million buildings across 40 countries, including the United States, France, and Japan. 

To acquire this information, Google has employed an AI model trained to extract 3D data regarding roof structures directly from aerial images, while also considering factors such as the presence of trees and shading. 

The Google Maps Solar API takes into account variables like historical weather data and energy expenses in the region. Businesses such as solar installation companies can assess the amount of sunlight received by buildings and estimate potential energy savings without the need for onsite visits. 

What Can You Do With The Solar API?

Traditionally, calculating how much energy any given rooftop can generate has been a tricky process, to say the least. Google’s Solar API solves this problem and then some.

The Google Maps Solar API offers reliable and easily accessible solar-related data – think satellite imagery, rooftop energy calculations, and location-based data.

Solar companies can integrate this into their applications to access the vast amount of solar data and use it as it fits their needs. For instance, a possible use case could be to locate homes or buildings in a locality that would be good candidates for solar energy. You’d be able to make this decision based on underlying solar data and the solar potential calculations that the API provides.

Another possible use case would be in terms of improving your sales cycle.

With the solar API, you can also create best-in-class proposals in minutes while expediting business processes, fueling growth, and establishing customer trust. The rich data set can reduce installer risks, overhead and labour costs by minimising on-site visits significantly shortening sales cycles and offering precision to solar array designs. 

Lastly, on the consumer side, this technology streamlines the process for homeowners interested in installing solar panels, facilitating their contribution to sustainable energy production.

Exploring The Key Functions Of The Solar API

Solar companies can choose between two different sets of functions on the Google Maps Solar API. Those being – Building Insights and Data Layers. Let’s explore each of these in greater detail.

Building Insights

The Building Insights function provides valuable insights into a building’s location, dimensions, and solar potential. This tabular information can be used out of the box to provide potential customers with address-based solar data or create educational forms of content regarding solar awareness. 

This function and the data within it can also be useful in creating quotes for solar projects, formally considering locations for solar energy, aiding in designing solar systems, as well as for financing and getting permits for said projects.

Data Layers

The Data Layers function offers multiple data sets for those who wish to build their custom models by leveraging solar-related information such as rooftop elevation, and building outlines, assessing shade patterns as well and offering daily, monthly and annual solar data.

This function supplies URLs for accessing raw solar information datasets covering the area surrounding a specific location.

Both of these functions are powerful in their own right, but solar companies also have the option to combine both to create more custom solutions such as a solar panel placement visualisation as a part of your digital solar project proposal. 

But, that’s just scratching the surface, as the data through these functions can empower solar design and installation companies to do so much more. Here are a few other benefits you can expect from integrating the Solar API into your applications.

  • Reliable Solar Data Source: The data obtained through the Google Solar API can be useful for organisations of all sizes that are providing solar solutions.
  • Designing Solar Power Systems Remotely: With access to detailed geospatial, rooftop data and solar potential estimations, solar companies can design and plan solar power systems remotely, eliminating the need for physical site visits and expediting the design and installation processes.
  • Expediting Solar Site Assessments: By providing comprehensive information on rooftop characteristics, solar irradiance, and shading, the Solar API enables swift and accurate assessments of potential solar sites, reducing the time and resources required for on-site evaluations.
  • Identifying Optimal Installation Locations: Solar companies can use the Solar API to analyse multiple factors such as rooftop orientation, tilt, and shading patterns to pinpoint the most suitable locations for solar panel installation, maximising energy production and efficiency.
  • Generating More Precise Proposals: Armed with precise solar energy estimations and detailed insights into potential savings, solar companies can create tailored proposals for customers, showcasing the benefits of solar adoption with greater accuracy and confidence.
  • Offering Informative Details to Educate Consumers: The Solar API empowers solar companies to educate consumers effectively by providing them with detailed information on solar potential, energy savings, and environmental benefits. This enables consumers to make informed decisions about adopting solar energy for their homes or businesses.

How does the Solar API Calculate Energy Potential?

The Google Maps Solar API is a powerful tool designed specifically for solar companies looking to improve their operations and efficiency. This API helps assess how much energy rooftops can generate, which is crucial for large-scale projects aiming for optimal energy solutions.

By using advanced algorithms and Google’s extensive mapping resources, the Solar API accurately calculates the solar power potential of rooftops. It provides precise estimates of how much solar energy can be generated, enabling companies to make quick and confident decisions.

The Solar API analyses aerial imagery to consider important factors like roof angle, tree coverage, and shading. It also incorporates local weather data and electricity costs, giving companies valuable insights for planning projects and creating proposals.

For solar companies involved in major commercial projects, the Solar API can offer significant benefits. By integrating the Solar API, companies can expedite their estimation process and deliver proposals faster, thereby enhancing operational efficiency and gaining a competitive edge in the market.

But, how does the Solar API calculate the energy potential of a rooftop? What’s the science behind it all? To understand this better, we need to go over these fundamental solar concepts.

Solar Irradiance & Insolation

Solar irradiance and insolation are pivotal in determining a roof’s solar potential, complemented by various contributing factors. Solar irradiance denotes the intensity of sunlight falling on a specific area, while solar insolation measures the cumulative solar irradiance over time. 

A megawatt (MW) signifies power, representing the rate of energy consumption, whereas a megawatt-hour (MWh) quantifies energy usage or capacity. Solar irradiance is gauged in megawatts, whereas solar insolation is quantified in megawatt-hours.

The equivalence of 1/1000 MWh/MW to 1 sun hour elucidates that during this period, sunlight intensity averages at 1,000 Watts per square meter. This metric serves as a foundational reference for solar energy assessments.

For instance, a rooftop section exhibiting a solar insolation of 2 MWh/MW/year would yield 2 MWh of energy annually from a 1 MW solar panel array installed there. Scaling up, a 4 MW array in the same location would generate 8 MWh/year.

Standard Test Conditions (STC) serve as a standardised yardstick for evaluating solar panel performance, wherein a panel’s output at STC defines its maximum power rating or capacity.


“Sunniness” as defined by the Google Maps Solar API delineates the sunlight exposure of a roof section relative to its surroundings, quantified on an annual average basis. 

Variations in roof features like shading from nearby structures or foliage impact this metric, with the API segmenting roofs into distinct “sunshineQuantiles.”

The Solar API’s provision of dataLayers encapsulates solar insights in GeoTIFFs, raster files comprising cells storing spatial information. These files accommodate both discrete and continuous data, categorically representing phenomena such as elevation and tree canopy cover.

Flux Maps

Flux maps, accessible via the dataLayers endpoint, offer insights into annual sunlight distribution on rooftops, measured in kWh/kW/year. 

Calculated flux encompasses location-specific solar irradiance, weather dynamics, shading influences, and roof orientation. Efficiency considerations remain paramount, with the Solar API’s computations operating independently of panel efficiency. 

Key Points To Remember When Calculating Panel’s Solar Energy Potential

To determine energy production accurately, users must factor in panel wattage and system losses beyond API-generated values. Internal variables such as inverter efficiency and environmental factors like soiling and snowfall are not within the purview of the Solar API’s calculations, emphasising the need for holistic assessment in solar energy planning and implementation.

What Type of Data Can Solar Companies Get Through The Google Maps Solar API?

The Solar API delivers comprehensive solar insights for countless buildings globally, leveraging imagery of varying quality levels: HIGH, MEDIUM, or LOW.

For HIGH-quality data, meticulous assessments are based on high-resolution DSM data, often sourced from close-range aerial imaging, such as at 10cm resolution.

MEDIUM-quality data relies on moderately detailed DSM data, typically derived from aerial imaging conducted at higher altitudes, providing resolutions around 25cm.

LOW-quality data utilises lower-resolution DSM data, often obtained from satellite imagery, resulting in resolutions of 50cm or lower.

Continuously enhancing coverage, the Google Maps Platform team strives to augment service offerings. An interactive map showcases regions with access to HIGH and MEDIUM quality solar data, omitting areas with LOW-quality data.

To acquire latitude and longitude coordinates for more accurate levels of data, alternative Google Maps Platform APIs like the Geocoding API or the Places API offer viable solutions. Additionally, coordinates can be extracted from maps generated through the Maps JavaScript API.

How Will Google’s Solar API Impact The Solar Industry As A Whole?

Hopefully, you can see just how powerful Google’s solar API is and has the potential to be. But, why is it that Google has released this API? Are they simply doing it for the good of humankind to expedite the rollout of solar technology globally so that we’re all burning less fossil fuels? Yes, but it’s likely not the only reason. After all, Google is a publicly owned commercial organisation that sees this technology as adding value to an already successful product, i.e. Google Maps.

Solar is one of the fastest-growing Industries today and Google believes it can add a lot of value in this industry. CNBC reports that Google expects to generate $100 million from this API in the first year.

While this might sound like a high figure you only need to look at the other APIs within the Google Maps portfolio that are being used by other companies around the world. Uber, for example, is understood to have paid $58 million to Google in 2019 to use their mapping API in the Uber app and that’s just one company. We can see the Solar API being used in all manner of applications by major solar companies across the world before long.

Takeaways – Google Maps Solar API

In conclusion, the Solar API emerges as a powerful tool revolutionising the solar energy landscape. Offering detailed solar data for millions of buildings worldwide, it empowers solar companies with insights crucial for informed decision-making and efficient operations.

By integrating the Solar API into their systems, solar companies can harness its capabilities to optimise site selection, accurately assess solar potential, and streamline solar panel design and installation projects. If you are an organisation that focuses on providing solar energy solutions, then the Google Solar API should be a no-brainer. This innovative technology will help you grow your efforts at a tremendous scale.

At Intuji, we specialise in creating seamless API integrations to scale businesses and future-proof operations. With a track record of successful integrations across various industries, we are excited to assist solar companies in leveraging the Solar API to propel their ventures forward.

If you’re a solar company seeking to unlock the full potential of solar energy solutions through data-driven insights and streamlined processes, reach out to us today. Let’s collaborate to integrate the Solar API into your systems and embark on a journey towards sustainable growth and unforgettable experiences for your customers – all through the power of technology.

Published On

February 28, 2024