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Solar Shopping, Simplified
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February 21, 2013

Solar Shopping, Simplified

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor

A Cambridge, Massachusetts-based start-up firm that was awarded $500,000 last June by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Incubator program has launched a website designed to make  negotiating the convoluted solar shopping experience as easy as navigating a travel site like Kayak.

The firm, EnergySage, describes its new Solar Markektplace as a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive platform for investigating and buying solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Initially, the Solar Marketplace is focused on the northeastern United States. Plans are to roll out rapidly to additional markets.

On the site, shoppers can solicit and receive multiple quotes from a pre-screened network of high-quality solar installation providers. The quotes, presented in a clear, “apples-to-apples” format, highlight key metrics and are supported by easy-to-use decision-making tools. The site also includes robust educational content; real-life case studies with pictures and financial details; and installer and product profiles with ratings and reviews.

 “The solar shopping process can be complicated and confusing for consumers. Many ultimately give up and do nothing because they can’t be sure they’re making the right decision,” explains EnergySage CEO Vikram Aggarwal. “The EnergySage Solar Marketplace is designed to simplify this process and add much-needed transparency.”

Most consumers considering a solar power system do not know where to begin, and for those bold enough to request quotes from several installers, the process of comparing these options is difficult and time-consuming. EnergySage helps each consumer to evaluate multiple options and determine the one that makes the most sense for his or her particular financial situation—removing the guesswork from the process. Its network of high-quality installation providers, The Solar Marketplace consolidates the available purchase and financing options into a single online market that includes everything from zero-cost leasing to debt financing and outright purchases.

Similar to websites such as Expedia (News - Alert), the site is free for consumers while providers pay a small commission for new business received through the site.

The company asserts that EnergySage delivers tremendous value by targeting “soft costs” such as high sales and marketing expenses, which limit profitability, keep prices high, and slow market growth. “Providers are spending an incredible amount of time and money in their efforts to acquire new customers. EnergySage drives these costs down by facilitating a more efficient sales process,” said John Gingrich, head of Corporate Development at EnergySage. “The information and transparency EnergySage brings to the shopping process helps consumers make faster, more confident decisions.”

Josh Ross, vice president of the Ridgefield, Connecticut solar installer, Ross Solar Group, commented, “The EnergySage platform is an attractive new sales channel for my business. Because the leads we receive from EnergySage are educated, ready-to-take-action consumers, the time period from the request for a quote to a decision will be significantly shorter, saving time and money in my sales process.”

Additionally, sustainability focused organizations—including government, not-for-profits, and employers that are promoting solar and other clean energy options—will be able to leverage the platform to support their own efforts. The platform makes it easier and more cost-efficient for them to promote sustainability, educate their audience, provide them with a larger variety of choices—and ultimately help them to choose the system, installer, and financing option that will provide them with most value.

A test shopper agrees. “EnergySage takes the guesswork out of going solar. The EnergySage Solar Marketplace is truly a one-stop shop to research and shop for solar. Their knowledge and consultative approach helped us sort through the maze of solar options to find the one clear choice that was best suited for us, saving us significant time and money, ” said homeowner Rich Kane.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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