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Friendly, detailed, and expedient, Sungevity offers a compelling and painless argument for private solar installation.  (Source: Sungevity)
New solar sales site is part internet maps, part environmental advocate, and part business planner

While big solar plants and high tech solar cells using high-efficiency or exotic materials steal all the spotlight, it is shameful to overlook the very real financial and ecological benefits of private consumer solar cell adoption.  Private adoption lets users cut their power costs drastically, and cut down on the burning of fossil fuels, which releases greenhouse gases, sulfates, nitrates, and toxic phenyl compounds.

It seems hard to argue the logic of such benefits, but there are the inevitable detractions.  First, even with government rebates which are available in most states, the process needs an upfront investment of anywhere from $7,000 to as much as $40,000 for very large homes.  Further, some areas get less sunlight then others, so not all of these investments are created equal.  Worse still, the planning process can involve weeks of quotes and uncertainty.

This is where Sungevity, a new company founded by enterprising entrepreneur Danny Kennedy, comes in.  Sungevity looks to take the pain out of purchasing private solar power.  Users simply log onto the site, submit their address and electrical bill information and within 24 hours they have a detailed individualized analysis that beats many private quotes taking 10 times as long to receive or more.

The quote starts with the basic price of installation after local rebates.  It continues with the prospective savings over 25 years (most cells have a life of around 25-30 years or more) and how much the system will increase the value of their home (green is considered a selling point, even in today's troubled economy).  The analysis even includes images of how your house would look with solar panels.  Traditional analysis would require physical examination of the roof and days of inspection, processing, and numbers crunching.

His new system takes a complicated system and makes it simple says Kennedy.  He states, "We do all that (the calculations for preparing the estimate) in about 10 to 15 minutes."

Pleased customers can put down a deposit after their quote and schedule an installation appointment.  It's hard to get much more pain free than that.  While the system currently only operates out of its home state, California, it plans to soon expand to additional states.

A CNET writer, Michael Kanellos, did an analysis on his grandmother's house as a test of the new system.  He found that the system would provide 25 percent of the home's power on average and cost $7,511 after government rebates.  The total savings over 25 years would be an incredible $27,360.  The quote easily beat the 24-hour guarantee, coming back in a mere 2 hours.  A deposit could be placed conveniently using Visa, MasterCard, and American Express, the writer noted.

The new Sungevity system not only helps the customer, but saves money for the seller as well.  The software eliminates the need to pay an inspector to come out and visit the house to develop an estimate.  According to Kennedy, only 10 percent of such visits end in the sale.  The result is the installation cost, typically half the cost of the panels themselves, is unnecessarily high.

The system cuts installation costs by around 10 percent, and reduces estimating costs by as much as 80 percent.  The system also includes software that coordinates installation and delivery, helping to further cut down on labor costs.

The "magic smoke" driving the whole engine is a complex amalgamation of the Internet's most advanced resources.  Sungevity uses Microsoft Virtual Earth's satellite data to derive its information on the house.  The company gave Microsoft a one up over rival Google, as Microsoft offers views from different angles, where as Google only offers a top-down view. 

From the satellite information Sungevity calculates the pitch of the roof (its angle), the azimuth (what compass direction it faces), and the amount of free space for the system.  The system also takes into account the user's electrical use and geographically based average levels of solar radiation.

The company will be showcasing its hard work, mailing free fliers to addresses in Albany, Calif., with free analysis, showcasing its prowess.  While the estimates need a bit of fine-tuning based on the owner's power bills, the fliers should contain reasonable estimates and help to show the customer what their home would look like in images that combine actual pictures of their house with computer generated images.

To cut costs, Sungevity offers 5 different size systems, rather than going for custom sizes.  These mass produced systems range from 1.4 kilowatts to 5.6 kilowatts and typically cost $7,500 to $38,500 after rebates.

Sungevity is currently working to secure solar installers as subcontractors in other states or to offer its estimating services to solar contractors in other states.

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RE: Cost and Savings
By FITCamaro on 4/24/2008 12:22:16 PM , Rating: 2
Honestly when I buy a home, if I live in an area that gets adequate sunlight most of the year, I plan to eventually get a solar array on my house. Even if you only power your AC system with it, during the summer that can cut a ton off your electric bill. And with oil going ever higher and the US population not supporting nuclear power, power costs are only going to rise.

However I still think solar power plants are a worthless venture. For the land area they require, they produce like 1/10th the energy of a nuclear plant. Or even a traditional gas or coal fired plant. Just because its "green" doesn't mean its smart.

RE: Cost and Savings
By ninjit on 4/24/2008 12:32:14 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, Solar "Farms" are stupid.

There's already all this available exposed surface area on top of existing buildings, we don't need to gobble up even more land just for solar panels (even if it is in the middle of the desert).

Plus, it saves on infrastructure too, as you won't need so many power lines if the panels are on site.
That reduces security risk, in addition to cost - infrastructure is generally considered a prime target for vandalism and/or attack.

RE: Cost and Savings
By FITCamaro on 4/24/2008 2:21:48 PM , Rating: 2
You will still need power lines to every home as most people cannot afford a system (or even fit one) for their home that will completely power their home. Also, on a cloudy day, you need the power lines or you're in the dark.

However one advantage of solar cells on a home is that if the power does go out, you're not necessarily in the dark. Especially if you have a battery system to store power for the evenings. I know I would if I had such a system installed. Enough to run a few things should the power go out at night. The frig and some fans at least.

RE: Cost and Savings
By Spuke on 4/25/2008 1:11:39 AM , Rating: 2
My next home will have one for sure despite the costs. I'm interested mainly in the freedom. I can run my A/C freezing cold and my heater boiling hot if I want and it won't cost me my first born to do it. I'll probably get a 5.5kw with some battery backup for the fridge and stuff like FIT mentioned.

RE: Cost and Savings
By Chernobyl68 on 4/25/2008 12:33:41 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think they're stupid. Typically they're in the desert. arizona, new mexico, parts of texas, oklahoma, california, nevada. places with low population and low land value, with little water (needed for most other types of power generation - gas, coal, nuclear) which may not have reliable wind for wind power generation.
So if they're using the land for what it's best suited to, why not build the solar farms?

Now, granted, I think the world's energy needs are growing at too fast a pace for this type of plant to make a dent big enough to take some of the carbon-using plants offline, but for that we need big mainline power plants to be built. The best place for that currently is in new 4th generation nuclear or older breeder reactor technology. Until we are able to master Fusion power at least.

RE: Cost and Savings
By masher2 on 4/25/2008 12:24:58 AM , Rating: 2
> "For the land area they require, they produce like 1/10th the energy of a nuclear plant"

More like 1/50 the power...and at four times the cost per Kw-h.

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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