solar plants and high tech solar cells using high-efficiency
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
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
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
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
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