Category Archives: PVPower

Making Your Roof Pay Your Mortgage: Why Buying Solar Makes Sense Now

Roof Solar Panels

When you walk past a neighbor’s house with solar panels on the roof, you might envy their low electricity bills or be impressed by the clean energy they’re generating. What you might not realize is that they probably don’t own their solar panels and are paying monthly to rent them. A new startup we’ve selected for our portfolio has a solution designed to help homeowners actually make money from the solar on their roofs.

Solar leases were invented as an inexpensive option for homeowners to get solar panels. Solar panels themselves used to be very expensive: five years ago, the total up-front cost to outfit a roof was about $50,000. Because of that high cost, leasing solar has become by far the most popular option. Last year, 70 or 80 percent of people who added solar on their house in California, Arizona, or Colorado signed a lease.

That made sense then, but over the last two years the prices of panels have fallen dramatically. Thanks in large part to advances in Chinese manufacturing, the average price of solar has fallen to $20,000 per home.

As with a car or a house, most people buy solar if they can afford it. Leases and rentals mean lost value.

The real sting from leasing solar is that the company keeps the tax credits from installing the panels on your house ($7,500 from the federal government plus any state or local). You also miss out on the opportunity to increase the value of your home; you only get that bump in value if you own the panels.

So why are people still leasing? Until now, it took a lot of effort and some serious DIY work to buy and install solar yourself. There are literally thousands of panel options, multiplied by the many configurations to mount it to your roof, and figuring out tax credits is really tricky.

Kiwi, a startup company we’re working with at Greenstart, wants to simply this process so homeowners can own solar just as easily as they can lease it.

Kiwi packages together everything you’d need to go solar in a bundle called a Juicebox. They have five sizes of solar systems to choose from, deliver all the parts in one big box, match you with a local installer, and then help you cash in on tax credits.

Kiwi co-founder Nick Yecke claims the lifetime value a homeowner gets from a mid-size Juicebox is $70,000, when you include savings on energy bills, tax credits, and increase in home value. This can even be as much as $106,000 in Long Island, thanks to generous tax credits. In comparison, a solar lease has a lifetime value of about $12,000, made up of a 10-20 percent discount on energy costs.

Solar leases aren’t a bad option, and they were a necessary step in making solar available to the average homeowner.  But comparing apples to apples, owning solar is a much better investment in the long run.

Yecke says the biggest obstacle to getting Kiwi to customers is helping them understand the lifetime value of their systems, and opportunity for homeowners to cash in on big tax credits. Kiwi is currently active in Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, New York City, Chicago, and northern California.

This Company Thinks It Can Get You To Pay Thousands Of Dollars For Solar On Your Roof

The past few years have been undeniably depressing for anyone interested in clean energy; Solyndra was the most well-publicized failure, but it was hardly the only one. One of the only bright spots has been in the home solar industry, where solar leasing companies like SolarCity and SunRun have convinced homeowners that they can save money on their electric bills (and feel good about themselves) by leasing home solar arrays for a low monthly cost. In California, two thirds of new home solar systems are leased, compared to 93% purchased in 1997.

Kiwi JuiceBox

Kiwi, a San Francisco-based solar startup wants to make a dent in the trend by convincing homeowners that it’s worth it to buy a photovoltaic system and part with their many thousands of dollars. The hope: that convenience and good marketing are enough to get them to do it.

The past few years have been undeniably depressing for anyone interested in clean energy; Solyndra was the most well-publicized failure, but it was hardly the only one. One of the only bright spots has been in the home solar industry, where solar leasing companies like SolarCity and SunRun have convinced homeowners that they can save money on their electric bills (and feel good about themselves) by leasing home solar arrays for a low monthly cost. In California, two thirds of new home solar systems are leased, compared to 93% purchased in 1997.

Kiwi, a San Francisco-based solar startup wants to make a dent in the trend by convincing homeowners that it’s worth it to buy a photovoltaic system and part with their many thousands of dollars. The hope: that convenience and good marketing are enough to get them to do it.

The past few years have been undeniably depressing for anyone interested in clean energy; Solyndra was the most well-publicized failure, but it was hardly the only one. One of the only bright spots has been in the home solar industry, where solar leasing companies like SolarCity and SunRun have convinced homeowners that they can save money on their electric bills (and feel good about themselves) by leasing home solar arrays for a low monthly cost. In California, two thirds of new home solar systems are leased, compared to 93% purchased in 1997.

Kiwi, a San Francisco-based solar startup wants to make a dent in the trend by convincing homeowners that it’s worth it to buy a photovoltaic system and part with their many thousands of dollars. The hope: that convenience and good marketing are enough to get them to do it.

Read the full story on fastcoexist.com

Startup Kiwi Uses Social Media To Sell Solar To Homeowners

Solar electricity may be cleaner, but that attribute alone often isn’t enough to entice consumers to buy and install a set of solar panels on their roofs. A San Francisco startup called Kiwi believes it’s come up with a game plan to make solar attractive to homeowners and is making Denver its first market.

Kiwi Solar's Nick Yecke

The startup takes orders from homeowners, works with solar equipment manufacturers to assemble solar electric systems, ships those systems to homeowners and then arranges for installers to set up the systems on the rooftops. This process isn’t so different than what many other solar retail service providers are doing. What Kiwi can make a difference is how it markets and convinces consumers that they should spend tens of thousands of dollars on a solar electric system.

Founded in 2009 as a distributor of solar energy equipment, Kiwi was called PVPower before it changed its name just recently to focus on selling solar electric systems to consumers rather than installers. The company just completed a 3-month boot camp run by investment and coaching group, Greenstart, to help young green tech companies make a big push in tackling new markets.

The new name for the company is part of the strategy to grab consumers’ attention. The term “Kiwi” is meant to evoke something “juicy and intriguing,” said its CEO, Nick Yecke, especially when many solar retailers today use words such as “solar,” “sol” or “sun” in their names. A solar electric system from Kiwi is called a “Juice Box,” and it comes in three sizes, from 3 kilowatts to 5 kilowatts.

“The name is much more consumer friendly and a warmer brand,” said Yecke, who was an executive at two digital advertising agencies before co-founding PVPower. “It’s a fresh take on solar and something we can build on.”

The company launched its OwnKiwi website on Tuesday to formally kick off its new brand and business plan, though it launched the service in Denver earlier this month. The website will be the main vehicle for the startup to educate potential customers about solar energy. Kiwi plans to use social media campaigns and face-to-face sales to win over customers and word-of-mouth recommendations from them, Yecke said. Exactly what Kiwi will do to grow its business remains to be seen, though, since the company is still finalizing its marketing plan.

How to attract potential customers’ attention and successfully sell them solar electric systems and services is a big challenge for solar retailers. Many retailers know to put up websites, run Google ads, show up in community events, create funny videos, hold the solar version of the Tupperware party and use social media to drive interest. Some companies use online games and competition – or turn to radio ads and billboards – to get their messages across. The success rates of converting people who visit a website into paying customers vary, and anecdotal accounts put the rates at low as 2% to over 10%.

Companies that focus on marketing and signing up customers have emerged in recent years as the solar market grows and matures. Big venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins is backing one such firm, Gen110.

Right now, Kiwi is focusing on selling solar electric systems to consumers at prices ranging from $12,000 to $24,000. Part of its sales pitch is to show homeowners that they could get more value by owning the systems, Yecke said.

For a homeowner in Denver, the value can be as much as $80,000 over 25 years (the length of a typical solar panel warranty), if you factor in the electricity savings, the increase in home property value and the federal and local tax breaks and rebates for installing solar equipment, Yecke said. The value would be much lower for someone who opts for leases because the system is then owned by a bank or other investors who also get to benefit from the tax incentives, he added.

Solar leases have grown in popularity in recent years, however, because they require little money down and deliver solar electricity at rates lower than what people pay to their utilities, at least in the first year or so. Startups that offer this type of financing models have also grown quickly and attracted venture capital investments. One of them, SolarCity, filed to go public earlier this year. Homeowners also can buy solar equipment and installation services – instead of singing up for leases – from many of these companies. Kiwi, which hopes to raise $500,000 to expand its market reach,  will have no shortage of competition.

Read the full story here on Forbes.com

Hands on coding

One of my goals in attending Code Academy was to get more hands-on with PVPower and the execution of SolarBear. Not to be “the guy” executing the front end, but to be able to pitch in when needed and get my hands dirty. Well my first project is upon me, I’m working on coding up a generic design that we had created. This is a great way to learn… and get frustrated.

Sneak Preview

Check out SolarBear

SolarBear has been in use by solar installers for over 3 months now, since early January and is getting great response from our customers. At PVPower we’re quite excited about this, and the work that lies ahead in building the platform that powers America’s independent solar installers. Check out the 2 minute demo below.

Climate Cycle Ride

Team PVPower took part in a great event this past Sunday to support Climate Cycle, an organization that raises money to help Chicagoland students execute sustainability projects.

Team PVPower at Climate Cycle

I’m happy to say that our team raised just under $3,000 for the kids! Awesome stuff, that we at PVPower, are quite passionate about – solar, sustainability and renewable energy. We also lucked out and had a beautifully sunny day to bike 20 miles of Chicago’s beautiful lakeshore.

Looking forward to next year!

Cheaper Solar Power – Introducing Soltastic! Group Buying for Solar Professionals

Soltastic! Cheap Solar Deals

At PVPower we’re excited to announce the launch of our newest product, Soltastic! – group buying for solar installers. Our goal is to aggregate demand, create massive savings and pass those savings on to homeowners and installers so the overall cost of solar comes down.

Similar to popular group buying sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial, Soltastic! brings together buyers for a single, ridiculously cheap solar deal. Savings will be up to 70% on solar panels, inverters, racking and accessories. Once enough buyers are in the deal tips and everyone enjoys the savings.

Soltastic! Solar Deals Video from Soltastic Deals on Vimeo.

Manufacturers and suppliers are thrilled to have access to this often-elusive group of independent buyers and the installers love the idea of getting cheap solar panels by working together.

We’re reducing the cost of solar by cutting some fat out of the supply chain and helping solar installers work together to increase the speed of solar adoption in the U.S.

That’s Soltastic!

Soltastic! Solar Deals

Soltastic! Sign Up Page

Lessons Learned from Pitching our Startup

Nick Yecke of PVPower Launches SolarBear

Early last week our company PVPower presented in front of over 200 investors from throughout the country, along with friends and family at the House of Blues in Chicago. ‘Demo Day’ marked the conclusion of the Excelerate Labs 2010 summer start-up incubator program in Chicago. All of the companies knocked it out of the park with their presentations. The amount of preparation, focus and precision by the group was truly a pleasure to see unfold.  The mentorship of Sam, Troy and Brian (Excelerate leads) was crucial to the show being deemed one of the best people have seen. I don’t think venue selection hurt either, you know what I mean if you’ve ever been to the intimate, yet slightly eerie House of Blues Chicago.

I was fortunate to present the PVPower demo/pitch for 10 minutes on stage last Tuesday. A very gracious introduction by Chuck Templeton only helped me as I took the stage. In preparation for and during this great day I learned a few things about how to pitch and position a company to a wide variety of investors and mentors. Here are a few of my personal insights:

1. Be Real – When presenting something that you know intimately, in a high-pressure situation, it isn’t the time to fake it. Be yourself. Use your style, your emotion and your words in describing the business, challenges and solutions. If you don’t do this you’re likely to fail.

2. Have Fun – We had a ton of fun putting this presentation together. Dan (my business partner) and I wore green PVPower shirts, obnoxiously orange Puma’s and one of our co-workers even dressed up in a Polar Bear costume to help launch our new SolarBear web application. SolarBear (the Polar Bear) was in the first balcony and I gave him a shout-out mid-presentation. Bringing a smile to everyone’s face, including mine – now that sure eases the pressure.

3. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. – This seems obvious, but true preparation takes weeks and requires guidance from a variety of people, co-workers and mentors much smarter and experienced than yourself. You don’t need to take all of their suggestions, but do look for trends and listen closely because these people know what they’re doing and likely have done so in the past.

4. Pretty Pictures – Nobody has ever said that there were too few bullets on a PowerPoint slide. People hate words, they like stories, and investors love numbers (as they should). Support the numbers with awesome, striking visuals that make the numbers memorable. This is how the audience will remember key points, and at the end of the day that’s what you’re going for, 2-3 hooks that the audience (in this case investors) remember about you and your company.

5. Simplify – Only talk about the headlines, the key points that are crucial to drive home. Use devises such as music, video and imagery to reinforce your points. We used an awesome video (below) created by our friend Matt over at Vidiseo to explain (in a very simple manner) the problem that our customers face. (video password is “solarbearvideo”)

PVPower SolarBear Intro from Nick Yecke on Vimeo.

More from TechCocktail – Excelerate Labs Demo Day

Full Excelerate Labs Demo Day Photostream over at Flickr

thanks for reading!