Energy

Dazed and Confused by Solar Power?

| Wed Oct. 21, 2009 8:00 AM EDT

Solar power lovers of the world, unite!

That could be the motto for the solar power collective, 1BOG—if co-founder Dave Llorens cared about things like mottos. 1BOG is an acronym for "One Block Off the Grid," a concept Llorens explained over lunch recently in Phoenix where he was finalizing a decision on which of the many solar installation companies in the Valley of the Sun would be 1BOG's "preferred installer."

(They announced their decision yesterday: REC Solar, Inc.)

 

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The part of the concept that's most easily grasped is the CostCo Principle: You get a better price when you buy in volume.

“Obviously, price is very important," said Llorens. "We want to make sure our customers get a good deal for their money.”

1BOG Man Llorens1BOG Man Llorens

It's hard for a typical homeowner to buy enough solar panels to get a hefty price break. Few of us have roofs capable of supporting 5,000 panels, even if we could use a thousand kW of electricity. (What? You're not running a super-computer yet?)

1BOG solves that problem by pooling homeowners' need for PV. The 15% price break they eventually negotiated in Phoenix allows them to take "one block off the grid" at a time, at least conceptually. (Buyers don't actually have to live on the same block -- although the idea has a certain appeal of its own.)

There's something more important than price, though.

“What we really offer," says Llorens, "is a more comfortable way to go solar.” Roof-mounted PV systems are not new, but the growth of the industry has skyrocketed, and that’s had the unfortunate consequence of presenting would-be solar buyers with a bewildering number of choices: of panel types, system sizes, incentives to apply for and firms to install the array. 1BOG streamlines and untangles the process. In essence, you’re only making one major decision: to use 1BOG or not.

At a little over one year old, 1BOG understands that for their company to survive, they have to build a solid foundation of credibility themselves.

“Right now there are close to 15,000 1BOG members looking to put solar panels on their homes,” says Llorens. “We think that’s a pretty strong endorsement of our program, just a year out of the gate.”

You can visit the 1BOG site, here.

(I've posted a longer piece about 1BOG and REC Solar at The Phoenix Sun.)

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Osha Gray Davidson is a contributing blogger at Mother Jones and publisher of The Phoenix Sun, an online news service reporting on solar energy. He tweets @thephoenixsun.