“While researchers have struggled for half a century to push down the cost of solar photovoltaic modules, an innovative web service is creating communities of customers who pay less for solar panels through collective bargaining with installers.
One Block Off the Grid collects groups of would-be solar purchasers in cities with good solar access and brokers a deal between them and a local installer. It’s internet-based environmental organizing, and it appears to be working.
In a campaign running in San Diego, their customers will pay just $5.29 per watt of power capacity. Even after paying for an inverter to convert the DC power the panels generate into the AC power appliances use, the total One Block Off the Grid price is substantially lower than the San Diego County average. According to California Energy Commission statistics, the average total cost of a solar photovoltaic system is almost $8 per watt.
Now, they are launching a new tool that will provide instantaneous solar price estimates, the first online tool to do so. The new interface went live Sunday.
“The power of the internet has not been harnessed by the solar industry,” said Brad Burton, who heads up products and strategy at 1BOG. “The components of viral growth and immediate person-to-person contact haven’t been explored at all.”