Houston may be the oil and gas capital of the world, but solar energy may be a better fit, according to a new report.
HOUSTON BUSINESS JOURNAL — Google Inc. announced on March 14 an expansion of its Project Sunroof website, which shows how much money homeowners and property owners can save by installing solar panels on their roofs.
The Mountain View, California-based internet search giant used satellite imagery from Google Maps and Google Earth to calculate how much solar power could be collected if rooftop solar panels were installed at more than 60 million buildings nationally. Project Sunroof launched in 2015 with just nine states, and now has expanded to all 50 states, including Texas for the first time.
Google found that Houston has the most solar energy potential of any U.S. city with an estimated 18,940 gigawatt-hours of rooftop solar generation potential per year, according to its Project Sunroof data.
The average U.S. home consumes 10,812 kilowatt-hours a year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That means one gigawatt-hour of energy is enough to supply power to 90 homes for an entire year, according to Google.
Therefore, if every Houstonian installed rooftop solar panels on every possible home or office building, the Bayou City could generate enough electricity to power 1.7 million homes locally for an entire year.
Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio and New York round out the top five cities with the biggest solar energy potential, according to Google. Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc., uses rooftop solar panels and solar farms to power the majority of its facilities and data centers.
“If the top 10 cities (nationally) reached their full rooftop solar potential, they’d produce enough energy to power 8 million homes across the U.S.,” Joel Conkling, a Google project manager, wrote in the Project Sunroof report.
Solar viability in Houston has seen some mixed reaction. In March 2016, John Berger, CEO of Houston-based Sunnova Energy Corp., said the company hasn’t found the Bayou City to be a great market for solar power. However, one year later, the company announced plans to spend about $200 million in residential solar projects across the country.
As of July 2015, Houston had the lowest rate of market penetration for solar power of all the major markets in Texas, according to data from BuildZoom. Still, low adoption rates haven't driven away green energy providers from entering Houston's competitive residential energy market.
Installing solar panels can save electricity and help with resale values, according to some reports. Houston home listings touting energy-efficient features can command a higher premium over nonenergy-efficient homes, according to Zillow Inc.
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