Clean power supply
Published on October 17, 2020 | by Zachary Shahan
17th October 2020 by Zachary Shahan
Total and Google Cloud are excited to announce that they have pooled their expertise and developed a tool called Solar Mapper. With this tool, they want to “accelerate the use of solar panels for individuals (B2C) by providing an accurate and quick estimate of the solar energy potential of their homes”. It is planned to start this service in Europe and then expand it worldwide.
# SolarMapper????️ uses #AI algorithms that deliver better results than current tools and improve:
Data quality of ????️ images
Sharpness of the estimation of the potential
Global territorial coverage
Relevance of the technology to be installed
Lear more⤵️https: //t.co/WfSlS8tNBQ
– Total (@Total) October 13, 2020
Solar Mapper – is this new?
My first thought was, “Some solar companies did this a decade ago.” I remember the same PR pitches from some solar startups about 10 years ago. So is this just prepackaged PR from a big oil and gas company trying to break into the cleantech world?
I can’t say for sure as I don’t know the technologies – and what they spend – very well. The claim, however, is that the hardware and software that make this possible have gotten much better and totally unlocks the best of the best. That can be the case. I dont know. This is how they put it:
“Solar Mapper uses brand new artificial intelligence algorithms that deliver better results than current tools, especially by improving:
- The quality of the data extracted from satellite images;
- The sharpness of the estimate of the solar potential;
- The relevance of the technology to be installed;
- The global geographic coverage of the tool. “
I can say that in this simple press release they touched on the key areas where such services could be improved, which means they have taken the option to another level.
The Total crew, who are generating interest in this new cleantech path for the traditional fossil fuel company, suggests that Solar Mapper can be used effectively in more than 90% of France. This “enables many more people to assess the solar potential of their homes more precisely than before,” said the French giant.
Total is constantly sneaking into cleantech
As a reminder: Total does not come to solar energy from nowhere. The company has long been the majority shareholder of SunPower, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of solar modules and one of the leading suppliers of solar energy in the United States. It has also invested in large solar farms in India and elsewhere, offshore wind power in Scotland, floating solar power and more. So I wouldn’t consider any new investment or initiative to be a fluff effort or naive. The company is one of the most cleantech-focused oil and gas majors. The plan to deploy this mapping tool in France and then expand globally is a potentially gigantic plan. One might think that this tool would find its way into SunPower’s repertoire.
“Solar Mapper is contributing to the group’s efforts to become a world leader in the production of renewable energies and, together with society, to achieve net zero emissions by 2050,” the company states.
“With Solar Mapper, Total can install solar panels faster on the roofs of houses to provide its customers with more affordable and accessible solar energy,” said Marie-Noëlle Séméria, Total’s Chief Technology Officer. “By combining Total’s know-how in the field of solar energy with the know-how of Google Cloud in the field of artificial intelligence and databases, we were able to develop an attractive and innovative offer together in just 6 months.”
This first Solar Mapper rollout is intended for private households (B2C). However, the company plans to deploy a B2B application from Solar Mapper as well. Stay up to date with any news in the months or years of the company.
Total R&D + other cleantech investments
Along with this news, Total wanted us to know it was an innovation leader, and that includes a lot of research and development in cleantech. “Total has an ambitious R&D program worth nearly $ 1 billion a year. Total R&D is based on a network of more than 4,300 employees in 18 research centers around the world and on numerous partnerships with universities, start-ups and industrial companies. The investments mainly concern a low carbon energy mix (40%) as well as digital, safety and environment, operational efficiency and new products. More than 200 patents are filed each year. “
We have treated Total many times. There are a multitude of projects and companies that I could mention as examples of Total’s foray into cleantech. Here are just two that I found particularly interesting and entertaining:
Is the oil game over? Not yet, but we’re going there.
Lowering solar costs
As for the core objective of this new tool, it is clear that reducing costs. If you reduce the time and labor involved in personally finishing a roof, it means lower costs for the solar installer, which can mean either lower costs or higher profits. As I wrote in detail recently, the prices of solar panels have fallen dramatically in recent years. In fact, solar PV modules were 12 times more expensive in 2010 and 459 times more expensive in 1977 than they are today. However, that’s just the hardware.
The bigger challenge, as the cost of solar PV modules has continued to decrease, has been to reduce the “soft costs” – the non-hardware costs associated with rooftop solar systems. Tesla has taken some simple but effective approaches in the US: 1) It has basically cut all marketing costs * except for its referral program (if you use a Tesla owner’s referral code when purchasing a Tesla solar system like mine – https: / /ts.la/zachary63404 – They get a $ 100 discount and I also get some cash to design a system. (* There are some marketing materials in Tesla stores too, but to be honest, people come in to looking at the cars, and not a lot of time or money is spent selling solar, and Elon Musk of course spends a few moments in a Tesla pushing Solar on Twitter.) This approach from Total doesn’t cut marketing / customer acquisition costs, reduce it however the site visits and presumably saves money when designing a solar system on the roof ~ 100% virtual.
We’ll find out if this works well for the coming year or so when we see if Solar Mapper expands wide and quickly or moves into CleanTechnica’s archives. If you are in France and want to learn more about the program or receive a solar offer, please let us know.
Featured image from SunPower
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Teslas sales in 2012 versus 2021
About the author
Zachary Shahan tries to help society, to help itself word for word. He spends most of his time here at CleanTechnica as Director, Editor-in-Chief and CEO. Zach is recognized worldwide as an expert in electric vehicles, solar energy, and energy storage. He has reported on cleantech at conferences in India, the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in NIO [NIO]Tesla [TSLA]and Xpeng [XPEV]. However, it does not offer any investment advice (either explicit or implicit).