Connect with us


Google opens API about solar capacity, air quality, and pollen levels

The Pollen API will track seasonal tree pollen emissions in more than 65 countries around the world.

Back in 2015, Google launched Project Sunroof, the original Maps layer that combined location and sunlight data to show how much energy could be generated by solar panels installed on the roof of a home – yours or your neighbor’s, it didn’t matter, as Google mapped this for nearly every home on the planet. It was a clever way to not only promote the company’s environmental efforts, but also to showcase the platform’s technical capabilities.

At Tuesday’s Google Cloud Next event, the company will officially unveil a set of new Google Maps APIs that utilize artificial intelligence capabilities to provide developers with real-time information about solar potential, air quality and pollen levels. With these tools, “we can work toward our goal of helping individuals, cities, and partners reduce 1 gigatonne of carbon equivalent emissions annually by 2030,” writes Yael Maguire, vice president of geo-resilience at Google, in an upcoming Maps blog post.

The Solar API is based directly on the original work of Project Sunroof and utilizes modern maps and more advanced computing resources than its predecessor. The API will cover 320 million buildings in 40 countries, including the U.S., France, and Japan.

“Demand for solar energy has grown tremendously in recent years,” Maguire said. He noted that search interest in the query “rooftop solar panels and electricity” has increased by 60% in 2022. “We’re seeing this shift to solar power … and we saw a big opportunity to bring this information and technology to businesses around the world.”

The team trained an artificial intelligence model to understand the exact angles of roof pitches just from a satellite image or aerial photo, as well as estimate shade from nearby trees and combine that with historical weather data and current electricity prices. In this way, installation companies and homeowners get a better estimate of how much their solar panels can produce without having to have a technician physically travel to the site.

Google is also expanding the Air Quality layer to more than 100 countries. “This API checks and organizes several terabytes of data every hour from multiple sources – including government monitoring stations, weather data, sensors, and satellites – to provide a local universal index,” Maguire writes.

The system will even take into account current traffic conditions and vehicle counts to better predict which pollutants will be prevalent. “This process gives companies in health care, automotive, transportation, and more the ability to provide accurate and timely air quality information to their users wherever they are,” Maguire writes.

Beyond anthropogenic pollutants, Google is also developing its current Maps layer, which tracks pollen, into a full API. “Rising temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions are also causing pollen-producing plants to grow in greater numbers and increase pollen, creating additional negative impacts for people with seasonal allergies,” he says.

The Pollen API will track seasonal tree pollen emissions in more than 65 countries around the world, taking into account local winds and annual trends, providing users with pollen counts, detailed allergen information and heat maps showing where sneezing will be most severe. Maguire envisions this data being used in travel planning apps “to improve the planning of daily trips or vacations.” The apps will be available to developers starting August 29.