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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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You are making an illogical assumption.
By SilthDraeth on 4/24/2008 1:53:03 PM , Rating: 2
"cost $7,511 after government rebates. The total savings over 25 years would be an incredible $27,360"

You are making an illogical assumption that the total cost of ownership of the solar kit over a 25 year period would be $7,511. This is not the case, that is the initial install, set up etc. This does not take into account maintenance of the system, nor does it take into account the fact that the solar cells will not be operating at the same efficiency for 25 years.

I love solar, and it has it's place for energy independence from the power company. But the fact of the matter is, it costs more per kilowatt to run solar than it does to buy it.




RE: You are making an illogical assumption.
By myocardia on 4/24/2008 8:22:24 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You are making an illogical assumption that the total cost of ownership of the solar kit over a 25 year period would be $7,511. This is not the case, that is the initial install, set up etc. This does not take into account maintenance of the system


Care to share with us what maintenance solar panels happen to require?


RE: You are making an illogical assumption.
By djc208 on 4/24/2008 10:20:20 PM , Rating: 2
They need to be kept clean as dirt, leaves, rain residue, bird droppings etc, will reduce their efficiency. The mounting system and roof will need inspection/preservation.

While the panels may prolong the life of your roof what happens if you need a new one 15 years from now. You'll have to remove the solar pannels to replace the shingles then reinstall the solar system.

The biggest issue is probably the inverters. The solar cells generate a DC voltage, which has to be changed to AC before you can use it so there are power inverters that are required, these probably won't last the entire life of the system.


RE: You are making an illogical assumption.
By myocardia on 4/27/2008 7:31:11 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
They need to be kept clean as dirt, leaves, rain residue, bird droppings etc, will reduce their efficiency. The mounting system and roof will need inspection/preservation.


All of which is free, unless you can't afford a few gallons of water/year.

quote:
While the panels may prolong the life of your roof what happens if you need a new one 15 years from now. You'll have to remove the solar pannels to replace the shingles then reinstall the solar system


You don't seem to know the definition of maintenance. Here, I'll try to help: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/maintenance BTW, #2's the one that applies here. So, let me get this straight, it's the solar panels' fault, if you install them on top of a roof that's in need of replacement? Is it also the panels' fault if you total your car, or your wife divorces you?

quote:
The biggest issue is probably the inverters. The solar cells generate a DC voltage, which has to be changed to AC before you can use it so there are power inverters that are required, these probably won't last the entire life of the system.


Well, you were right about something. Inverters don't last forever, and need to be changed every 12-15 years on average. So, add $2,000 to the total cost of the system, to cover the new inverter, or $3,000-$3,500 for a large inverter.


By MadMaster on 4/27/2008 1:54:58 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Well, you were right about something. Inverters don't last forever, and need to be changed every 12-15 years on average. So, add $2,000 to the total cost of the system, to cover the new inverter, or $3,000-$3,500 for a large inverter.


High quality electronics do last a long time... for example, your car computer. They generally outlast the car.


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