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Wondering If Solar Is Right for You? Just Ask Google's 'Project Sunroof'

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Ever wonder how much would you'd save by installing solar panels? Google's new Project Sunroof will not only answer that question, it'll also let you know if your roof is right for panels and how to get them installed—simply by entering your address.

The project taps into Google's trove of location and business data. By using the company's mapping and computing resources, Project Sunroof calculates how much sun hits your roof, the angle of your roof and sun-blocking obstructions such as trees and chimneys.

Project Sunroof also calculates how many panels you might need to save on your electric bill and throws in the solar incentives in your area. Use the slider tool to enter your typical electric bill amount to further customize the results. The website also presents users with buying or leasing options for solar panels and suggests a list of local installers.

And in case you were wondering: "Don't worry," Google says, "Project Sunroof doesn't give the address to anybody else unless you ask it to."

The website is ideal for people who want to tap into the fastest-growing renewable energy source, but might not know the first thing between "photovoltaics" and "kilowatts."

As Project Sunroof's lead engineer Carl Elkin, wrote in a blog post, "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."

Project Sunroof is currently available for residents in San Francisco and Fresno, California, and Boston, Massachusetts. There are plans to expand the project from coast to coast, and "maybe even the whole world," as the video below says.

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"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," Elkin also wrote. "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!"

"How many panels do I need? How much will it cost?" Google's latest project helps homeowners who want to go solar just by entering their address. Photo credit: Project Sunroof

Google had recorded a number of green initiatives, and has a long‐term goal to power their operations with 100 percent renewable energy. The company said it has purchased 1.1 gigawatts of renewable energy to power their data centers, and aims to triple their purchases of renewable energy by 2025.

Last month, EcoWatch reported that Google was one of the 13 companies to commit a combined $140 billion to the White House's “American Business Act on Climate Pledge” to slash their environmental footprints and to combat climate change.

“We believe that by directly investing in renewable energy projects, we can help accelerate the shift to zero-carbon power and create a better future for everyone,” Google said in a press release.

Watch Google's video below to learn more about Project Sunroof.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.

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