In Australia, Danny Kennedy has been well known for a long time as a spokesman and Program Director of Greenpeace. In the United States, he has taken an entirely different approach to helping the environment. His new company, Sungevity, which officially launches in California on Tuesday, aims to substantially cut the costs of domestic solar panel installations by applying mass market techniques to the industry.
Kennedy sees the current way of supplying solar panels as a labour-intensive cottage industry involving multiple visits to the client’s home for sales, measurement and design as well as the final installation. He aims to cut these costs by taking much of the process online. When you enter your (American) address on the Sungevity website, satellite-imaging software will zoom in on your roof, propriety software will calculate the roof’s dimensions, pitch and orientation, select an appropriate solar array and display an impression of what it will look like when it is installed. An e-mail will be sent to you with different solar array options and the relative return on investment. “With a traditional solar installer, that would have been about a two week process,” says Kennedy.
Once you place an order, an off-the-shelf prepackaged solar array will be dispatched along with the appropriate permit forms obtained from the system’s database of local building requirements. Sungevity will not employ its own installers but plans to work with unions to train contractors to install its solar arrays.
Sungevity will focus on selling smaller, cheaper solar systems that will cover that part of a home’s electricity use that is the most expensive to buy from a utility. “We’re selling this as an economic asset,” says Kennedy, “not just as a way to go green.”