Automated solar sizing from Rakuten in Japan

Stateside some of the lengthiest parts of a solar installation are finding an installer and getting them to get around to making an estimate. A Japanese retailer is leverage google maps to do all that online.

Asahi Shimbun wrote today, Rakuten to market home solar power systems via mouse click

Online retailer Rakuten Inc. will begin selling residential solar power generation systems this month priced about 40 percent lower than similar conventional products.

Customers can get a price estimate by accessing the new Rakuten Solar website and clicking on the roof of their house on an aerial photo provided by Google Maps, the company said July 9.

The company will be able to cut costs by eliminating the distribution process.

Prices for a detached house will start at 950,000 yen ($12,000), including installation costs. Taxes are not included.

That’s very reasonable. Although the story doesn’t say what sort of size in kilowatts DC or kilowatt hours AC that $12,000 would buy.

A bit more on how it works, and whether we could do that here:

Customers will be required to input their home address and the roof’s inclination angle before clicking on their roof on an aerial photo.

That would be just as doable in the U.S. There are already lots of online sites that will take roof square footage and inclination and location and output solar sizing estimates. Rakuten’s innovation is figuring out the roof space from google maps. (I wonder if they staffers measuring the maps, or have they automated that part.) They can probably figure out the local power utility from the location, as well.

In addition to a price estimate based on the roof size and direction, a projected annual power generation volume and monthly electricity charge will be displayed. The estimated bill will take into account sales of surplus power to an electric utility.

That’s also doable in Georgia; in fact, your local utility is required to buy back power you generate. The catch in Georgia is two-fold: buy-back prices are very low (4.5 cents from Colquitt EMC; 16 cents from Georgia Power), and you can’t sell to any utility other than the one-and-only assigned to you by Georgia’s 1973 Territorial Electric Service Act, so you can’t get a better rate from anyone else. We could fix that by electing legislators who will change that law.


PS: Owed to Haley Hyatt.