Deep in the heart of coal country, Geostellar is hoping to make the sky a bit sunnier. Yesterday, July 25, Geostellar took the sheet off its new end-user focussed solar analyzer—for the entire state of West Virginia. The online tool allows West Virginians to understand the potential for solar photovoltaic installations on their properties by entering their address on Geostellar’s site. The release was supported by a $500,000 SunShot Initiative’s Rooftop Solar Challenge.
It’s likely the first time such a system has been introduced across a whole state. Cities and counties like Denver and New York City have introduced such tools to encourage more people to go solar, but not a whole state. Geostellar’s tool will soon come to more markets, according to CEO David Levine, who lives near Shepherdstown, W.Va. “What’s really important about the announcement is we have tools for the property owner to get their own free independent analysis. We’ve had a ll the data, for a while, but now they can enter in their own address and get competitive quotes,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of people ask us about solar and we decided to open it up and let people learn about the potential.”
West Virginia has not been a huge friend of solar, but it does offer some advantages as a test market. “It was really [about] learning as much as we could about the property-owner and what their needs are,” Levine said. Geostellar’s tools have been around for a while. “Mostly we’ve focussed on installers and we don’t know what property owners think.” Basically the tool assembles a lot of information, including geographic information, local and national incentives information, calculates the return on investment for homeowners, scores their property’s viability for solar—most places in West Virginia are rated in the 400s, Levine said—and helps them find installers. Solar makes sense where homes and buildings score 400 or higher, he said.
The score is higher in places like Hawaii, which Levine said is at about 800 and in Washington, D.C., where it’s about 600. Part of the reason for higher scores, beyond more sunlight, is electric rates. West Virginia’s electric rates are very low, while Hawaii’s are among the highest in the nation.
Solar installers like the idea, it can save them time and money. “Right now it costs about $2,500 per closed system [to evaluate],” Levine said. “If we can get the consumers out the front door and get them to the installer fully educated, we can really help them out.”
In coming months Levine plans to roll the system out to other areas. “We are going to move likely after labor day, after we’ve learned about the customer then we’re going to roll it out to Washington, D.C., Southern California and New Jersey,” he said.