Tech and Science

Google begins selling map data to companies that make solar products, hoping to generate $100 million in the first year

A screenshot from Project Sunroof shows the pilot's map data, designed to help consumers plan solar for their homes.


Google plans to license new map datasets to a number of companies for use in developing renewable energy products and hopes to generate up to $100 million in the first year, CNBC has learned.

According to materials seen by CNBC, the company plans to sell access to new APIs (application programming interfaces) with solar and energy information, as well as air quality.

New offerings include a solar API that could be used by solar installers SunRun And Tesla Energy and solar design companies like aurora Solar, according to a list of example customers consulted by CNBC. Google also sees customer opportunities at real estate companies like Zillow, Redfinlike hotel companies Marriott Bonvoyand utilities like PG&E.

Some of the data from the Solar API is used by a consumer-focused pilot called ” Project sunroof, a solar savings calculator originally launched in 2015. The program allows users to enter their address and get estimated solar costs such as electricity bill savings and the size of the solar array needed. It also offers 3D modeling of nearby building roofs and trees based on Google Maps data.

Google plans to sell API access to individual building data as well as aggregated data for all buildings in a given city or county, a document said. The company says it has data for more than 350 million buildings, the documents say. That's a significant increase from the 60 million buildings it reported for the Sunroof project in 2017.

According to an internal document, the company's solar APIs will generate between $90 million and $100 million in revenue in the first year after launch. There is also the option to connect to Google Cloud products later, docs say.

As part of the planned launch, the company also plans to announce an air quality API that will allow customers to request air quality data such as pollutants and health-based recommendations for specific locations. It also includes digital heat maps of the data and hourly air quality information, as well as air quality history for up to 30 days.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The recent drop in revenue comes as the company tries to monetize its card products as it faces pressure to generate revenue amid a broader economic slowdown. While the company is focused on becoming more efficient, it's also investing in newer technologies like generative AI and sustainability — a market it hopes to capitalize on with the Solar API.

The company currently licenses its mapping API for navigation to companies like Above, which in 2019 said it had paid Google $58 million over those years. Revenue from the Maps API will flow into the company's cloud segment, which finally turned profitable in the first quarter but has had a rocky road to competing with market leaders Amazon and Microsoft.

Google doesn't disclose how much its cards business makes, but it has historically been one of Google's least monetized products, Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak told CNBC in 2021. At the time, Morgan Stanley had estimated that Google Maps would earn $11.1 Ad revenue grew by $1 billion that year as new travel products and promoted pins began to drive ad revenue.

The move also comes as the company seeks to streamline its card products. In June, CNBC found that the company was laying off employees at traffic app Waze, which it acquired in 2013, and merging them with the Google Maps team.

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