Solar power providers use satellite images and models to price out solar panel installation costs and benefits for potential buyers. But these systems generally lock homeowners into a defined set of providers.
SOLarchitects has developed a Web application that lets homeowners visualize solar panels on their homes without having to rely on a particular vendor or what for an estimate, reports Ariel Schwartz at FastCo Exist. The software uses a drag-and-drop interface and satellite imagery to generate the mock-up. The software then calculates the tax credits and other incentives for which the homeowners are eligible, based on their location. It also provides general energy savings data. Then, the user can choose to bid the job out to local contractors. SOLarchitects will then get a cut of the installation cost. Using the Web tool is free for homeowners.
The startup, based in New Orleans, recently earned the top prize, which includes a cash prize of $50,000, in a pitch competition against 18 other entrepreneurs. The contest is run by Idea Village, a NOLA based non-profit and entrepreneurial business incubator. The pitch contest was part of the group's Entrepreneur Week events held earlier in March.
One commenter to a FastCo Exist story noted that local building codes, among other complexities of permitting and installing a solar system, could stymie the online tool's effectiveness. "This sounds like a standard lead generation tool that pretends to be something more," he wrote.