Category Archives: Green Homes

GeoStellar Gives Solar Adoption A Boost

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Image via AmericaSolarDirect

Bringing Big Data down to earth isn’t just a figure of speech for Geostellar, a Washington, D.C.-based startup using social media to drive solar adoption. A big part of the $16 million it’s raised is being spent on crunching data and getting it into the hands of homeowners who want to generate their own clean energy.

“We’re all about the home owner,” CEO David Levine said in an interview at SXSW. “The energy industry hasn’t done them any favors. What people need is an advocate, something that works for them.” What works is a transparent ROI, some marketplace effects and a sliver of competition, which Geostellar describes as the “Glory” piece in its marketing campaign. For the past three years, Levine’s team has been building out its 3-D models, based on data that’s gathered by the same planes that Google, Apple and Microsoft use to snap pictures of the earth.

By combining its satellite imagery with the latest utility and energy rates, Geostellar uses your ZIP code to render three different snapshots of your home’s energy potential. Playing to different motivations, it displays the results under the categories, “Money,” ”Power” and “Glory,” which show electricity savings, electricity output and CO2 emissions, respectively.

Guessing that most of us aren’t experts in the last two — kilowatt-hours and carbon-dioxide tonnage — it breaks those benefits into something more digestible, like how many flights or loads of laundry you avoided. That’s where the social media part kicks in. They’re betting peer pressure will drive much of the adoption as neighbors try to one-up each other. Recent developments from companies like Opower — which uses social media to encourage energy efficiency in the home and works with with more than 70 utilities — show the approach is catching on. By liberating customer data around energy usage, behaviors and costs are amplified. In Geostellar’s case, current users can share their information within the application or externally on Facebook and Twitter.

Driving down costs

When homeowners are interested enough to get bids, it collects estimates from a large pool of installers and provides a detailed comparison of the proposals. According to Levine, part of the difficulty in assessing a homeowner’s options is the lack of standardized vendor processes and the variance around Solar Renewable Energy Credits.

Some vendors, for example, could have a pricing advantage because its models are based on a different set of assumptions than its competitor: The lower-priced proposal might assume utility rates would rise an average of 7 percent over the 25-year life of the panel, while the other vendor, with worse savings, only assumed a 4 percent rate increase.

By functioning as the broker, Geostellar meshes all the rates and best practices from vendors and delivers an “apple-to-apples” comparison, as Levine describes it.

That helps both parties. Confusion is removed from the bidding process and installers can focus on scaling installation, instead of spending on soft costs associated with things like marketing and customer churn.

In a March research brief, financial services firm Raymond James Financial cited data from the Rocky Mountain Institute that estimated soft costs represent more than 60 percent of total U.S. system costs, and are roughly four times higher than in Germany, despite higher labor prices. That’s a key metric because Geostellar charges installers a transaction fee, one it says is less than a solar installer’s cost to acquire a customer.

“With solar, now that the technology is proven, the industry’s biggest challenge is driving down costs,” Raj Prabhu, managing partner at Mercom Capital Group in Austin, Texas, said in a recent Bloomberg article. “The new money is going downstream to help build markets. The industry is now mainstream.”

First published at GreenBiz.com

The Rain Barrels Arrived

We picked these up from some friends of ours on the East Side of Austin. They used to be food-grade storage barrels, but now we’re doing the rain dance! We’re probably going to paint them, but before that, we’re planning to drill some holes and add a spigot for irrigation. Stay tuned.

Rain Barrels

• Instagram.

Lack Of Knowledge Is Still A Stumbling Block For Energy Conservation

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Ford Focus Electric (Photo credit: George Dearing)

Even though we’re buying more efficient light bulbs these days, a new poll shows Americans are still in the dark when it comes to saving energy.

Here’s a few highlights from the research, funded by a grant to the AP-NORC Center from the Joyce Foundation.

“Only 1 in 3 reports knowing a lot or a great deal about the government’s Energy Star product labels, which are meant to help consumers choose energy-efficient appliances and other products. Even fewer, 25 percent, report detailed knowledge about fuel- efficiency standards for cars. Not even 20 percent know a lot or a great deal about rebates for energy-saving products, home renovation tax credits or home energy audits.”

And what about this one.

“About 6 in 10 people cite lack of knowledge about energy-saving products as a major reason they don’t do more to conserve.”

But it won’t be solely in the hands of individuals, states are taking their own actions by setting energy efficiency standards for all sorts of devices.

via Daily Planning News.

The Energy Star Program Is Worth It For Brands

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We’re researching a dishwasher and Energy Star is the place we start, and really for any appliance or electronics purchase. In the case of dishwashers, it lays out energy usage and water loads very simply.
If you’re a brand considering exiting the program, you don’t exist to us. And there’s data from the EPA that shows you’re doing all of us a favor,

“The Energy Star program, which began in 1992, has prevented more than 1.7 billion metric tons of carbon pollution and saved consumers about $230 billion over the past 20 years, according to the EPA.”

I can understand the concern when it comes to certain third-party audits and certifications, but to threaten an exit is just silly.

Energy Star May Lose Electronics Makers After Rules Change – Bloomberg.

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The Gypsy Cart Chicken Coop May Be The Ticket

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This Green Jobs Infographic Is Well Done

Leap Adaptive Shows What You Can Do With Less Than 500 Sq. Ft.