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How SunPower is using Google Cloud to create a sustainable business

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At Google, we have spent the past 20 years building and expanding our infrastructure to support billions of users and sustainability has been a key consideration throughout this journey. As our cloud business has taken off, we have continued to scale our operations to be the most sustainable cloud in the world. In 2017, we became the first company of our size to match 100% of our annual electricity consumption with purchases of new renewable energy. In fact, we have purchased over 3 gigawatts (GW) of renewables to-date, making us the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy on the planet.

Our commitment to be the most sustainable cloud provider makes our work with SunPower even more impactful. Working together, we want to make it easy for homeowners and businesses to positively impact our planet.

SunPower makes the world’s most efficient solar panels which are distributed world-wide for residential and commercial customers. Since their beginning in 1985, they have installed over 10 GW of solar panels, which have cumulatively off-set about 40 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. To put that into perspective, that is the same amount of carbon dioxide nine million cars produce in a year.

Even with this impressive progress, rooftop solar design can still be a complicated process:

  • Potential solar buyers spend a significant amount of time online researching solar panels and understanding potential savings is challenging.

  • Once engaged with a provider, the design is a manual, time-intensive process and relies on the identification and understanding of factors unique to each home. These include chimneys or vents, legally-mandated access walkways, and the amount of sunlight exposure for every part of the roof.

At their current pace, SunPower’s solar designers would need over a century to create optimized systems and calculate cost savings for the 100 million future solar homes in the United States. By partnering with Google Cloud, SunPower significantly changed this timeline by developing Instant Design, a technology that allows homeowners and businesses to create their own design in seconds. This technology leverages Google Cloud in three important ways.

  • First, Instant Design uses Google Project Sunroof for access to both satellite and digital surface (DSM) data. By using the 1 petabyte of Sunroof data and imagery around the world, along with SunPower’s database of manually generated designs as a base, Instant Design can easily develop a model through a quick process of training, validation, and analyzing test sets.

  • Second, once SunPower built a satisfactory proof of concept, they leveraged Google Cloud’s AI Platform to iterate and improve upon their machine learning models and  quickly integrate them with their web application.

  • Third, Google Cloud allows the SunPower team to choose the processing power that best fits their needs, and can easily combine technologies for optimal performance. SunPower is using a combination of CPUs, GPUs, and Cloud TPUs to put the “instant” in Instant Design.

Our goal is to help SunPower empower their customers to make the transition to solar panels seamless. With the help of Google Cloud, homeowners can create their own design in seconds, which improves their buying experience, reduces barriers to going solar, and increases solar adoption on a larger scale.

At our Google Cloud Next ‘19 conference last month, Jacob Wachman, vice president of Digital Product and Engineering at SunPower, explained how Instant Design’s use of Google Cloud reflects the best of machine learning by providing applications that can improve the human condition and the health of our environment (see video here). We’re honored that SunPower has partnered with us to develop a technology that can advance our larger goal of a more sustainable future. Instant Design rolls out this summer and we’re excited to continue our work with the SunPower team.

More information on how SunPower is leveraging Google Cloud Platform can be found here. If you’re interested in how we are working with SunPower and other organizations across the globe to build a more sustainable future, check out cloud.google.com/sustainability.