Simplifying Solar Shopping - RoofRay

Have you looked at your energy bill lately? Felt the pain at the pump? Has solar been on your mind as a way to decrease and stabilize your business or home energy cost? You're not alone.

Have you looked at your energy bill lately? Felt the pain at the pump? Has solar been on your mind as a way to decrease and stabilize your business or home energy cost? You're not alone.

However, translating desire for renewable into action has for the most part been a fairly technical endeavor, fraught with labyrinthine data that only an engineer could hope to make sense of. Doing your own comparison shopping, seeing for yourself what potential your location has for generating power, and how much that will offset or replace your current utility needs has meant calling your local companies, having them come out to do an estimate or create a computer model, and then tell you what it all means.

What if you want to find out for yourself? Make your own, more informed decisions before talking with a company? Good luck.

That is, unless you happen to come across something like RoofRay or Renewzle

Renewzle does much of the heavy lifting for you, asking only basic information about where you live, what your monthly bill is now, and who your utility provider is. It then gives you an estimated cost for a system, how much it would save you, and how much CO2 you would be eliminating. You can tinker with the variables (% energy offset by solar, income, financing, etc) to get a more fine grained idea of the possibilities, then get estimates from solar power providers.

But, you may find yourself asking, is this really an accurate picture? It doesn't know anything about my house, what the roof is like, where the sun is in relation to it, or how long it's exposed a day. It's simple to use, but perhaps for some a bit too simplistic.

RoofRay, a site currently in beta, looks like a possible answer to these questions. And more.

Google Maps, you are able to see exactly what your house looks like from the air, how large the roof is, and simulate putting panels on it. Input data like the roof's angle, and it can give a fairly close to accurate indicator of your home or business's energy potential.

RoofRay's founders were clearly motivated by the same desires as who they seek to serve, starting the site after they had ballooning utility bills, sought out estimates for solar on their home, and found it overwhelming to make sense of. As they put it,

"We're not 'Green freaks'. We do believe in good stewardship of our planet but we're also realists. The economics must make sense for meaningful success. We think we can play a part in that."

Increasing the site's usefulness is the ability to see what the solar energy potential of other houses and businesses are. You can see where this is going: In an increasingly energy conscious and cost pinched society, people will want to know what results they could expect in a house or business space they're considering buying.

RoofRay seeks to make alliances with realtors and real estate listing sites to incorporate this information. In this, they hope to help speed along and make simpler the diffusion of solar energy.

Readers: What other ways do you see making renewable energy an easier and clear choice for a broader segment of the population?

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is "bottom lining" complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.

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