Regular readers of sustainablog know that I’ve become a big fan of St. Louis-based Solar Night Industries since company president and founder Jason Loyet first reached out to me in early 2006. Jason and team have been kind enough keep me in the loop about new developments, and I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen — they’ve gone well beyond solar flowers! In September, I sat down with Jason, CEO Tim Corbet, and Director of Operations Molly Salinas to take a look at their latest product, the Modern Energy Plan. The application is designed to answer a fundamental question for potential renewable energy adopters: what’s the best technology to use in terms of location, cost and return on investment.
Think of it this way: many of us who’d like to add renewable systems to our homes or businesses often already have a particular technology in mind. We don’t think “I’d like to add a renewable system to my home to produce electricity”; rather, we think “I’d like to put solar panels on my house.” Depending on costs and location, though, solar panels may not be the best option for us. Because we’re focused on a specific technology, installers have to spend time educating us on the pros and cons of the systems we’d like, and also on other options that might work better to meet our goals. For many consumers, this may feel more like a sales pitch than an education; for installers, this educating takes time away from the activities that make them money: installing systems.
The Modern Energy Plan addresses this problem by providing consumers with a tool that allows them to find out what kind of system will work best to meet their needs and goals. By gathering some basic information about a property’s location, existing equipment, and current utility service, the Modern Energy Plan creates a customized renewable solution for the user. The plan includes not only the equipment and costs required to complete the proposed project (from SNI’s catalog), but also satellite mapping information on solar radiation and wind speeds. A user will also find out about potential state and federal tax incentives and grants, net metering, and grid interconnection availability. As Jason notes,”Planning that once required 20 to 30 steps for a business or homeowner can now be accomplished in as few as eight steps…” Armed with this information, a consumer can then decide if s/he wants to discuss the potential project with an installer that belongs to SNI network.
Because renewable adoption is still in a relatively early phase, information is key to bringing these technologies into the mainstream. SNI’s created a simple, elegant option for providing that necessary information. Take a look at the sample plan they provide, and, if you’re seriously considering renewables for your home or business, give the system a spin.
I know other tools like these are on the horizon, and a healthy competitive environment will exist in this space shortly. At the same time, I think SNI’s set a high bar for competitors. As always, I wish them well with the roll-out of this tool, and hope any of you that try it out will share your thoughts.