And while the solar industry is still very much in its nascent stages of widespread consumer adoption, it is already ripe for the same sort of tech-driven, cloud-based makeover as the transportation and hospitality industries, says Chris Bailey, brand new Mill Valley resident and co-founder/CFO of PowerScout, a company seeking to do just that.
The pitch is fairly straightforward: while the costs of solar panels and systems have come down by 80% since 2008 and are projected to continue to do so, customer acquisition costs – the sales- and marketing-related costs to a solar company of acquiring new customers – remain quite high.
PowerScout seeks to significantly lower that cost, and pass its savings into the consumer, by bringing more transparency to the process. PowerScout.com is a web-based tool that shows consumers the savings and environmental benefits of adding a rooftop solar system to their home and help them purchase or finance their system online in four steps – and in jargon-free terms.
Bailey says that the early adopters have already adopted solar, and that the next group of prospective customers need to be shown the benefits and cost savings of making the switch. PowerScout hopes to convert people by giving them the tools to learn without the hard sell.
When a homeowner inputs their address into the tool, it spits back a bevy of information about projected savings based on location, topography, which direction the home faces and the availability of nearby suppliers and installers.
“This ecommerce, big data-enabled platform allows us to do what others have done in industries like banking and retail,” Bailey says. “We’re putting all of the information at the fingertips of the customer. As a result, we can can lower customer acquisition costs and pass that savings onto our customers.”
Bailey has spent 10 years in the solar industry, owing his interest in renewable energy to his years as a program manager at the non-profit United Nations Association.
“That time gave me a front-row seat at UN meetings where world powers and business leaders were debating critical issues, including how to bring power to the 1.3 billion people with no access to electricity,” Bailey says. “I began to realize that renewable energy, specifically solar energy, could leap-frog the traditional dirty power sources as a huge solution to the global energy problem. It’s been exciting to be a part of the rapid growth of the renewable energy industry.”
There’s no doubt that solar industry continues to show growth – the United States installed 1,361 megawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity in the third quarter of 2015, the eighth consecutive quarter that more than a gigawatt of solar capacity has been installed in the U.S., according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) U.S. Solar Market Insight Report.
Now Bailey, a New Jersey native who moved from Bethesda, Maryland to Mill Valley last month with his wife Fawn and two young sons, is looking to seize that growth and connect with his new Mill Valley neighbors about the benefits of the PowerScout tool.
PowerScout promises homeowners up to a 20 percent savings over its competitors, and Bailey is offering Mill Valley neighbors an additional $1,000 in upfront savings if they create an account by March 1, 2016 and email the code "MillValley16" to firstname.lastname@example.org.