OC Renewables - Home

Google Sunroof wants to make solar easier and empower the consumer

In solar news, Google today announced Project Sunroof, aimed at making the process of going solar easier through use of already existing data on rooftop layouts and solar resource.  While some may look at this and say, "Sounds good, but meh..", I think there are several hidden reasons why this could be a very big deal for mass solar energy adoption and the solar energy business.

Lets discuss:

Right now, the novice solar energy candidate consumer is not empowered: 

What I mean by this is that there is no Amazon reviews system for the long term performance of rooftop installed solar projects for residential / non-commercial customers.  If you are interested in going solar, you can go out and get a handful of bids, but other than competition on price and Yelp reviews of the installation company you choose, there is no great way to determine the "value of your roof".  If you work in the solar industry, than you know you can use tools such as SAM, or PVSYST, or the TMY3 databases, but these are not tools generally used by the public.  The customer is not in the driver seat here at a time when the customer is used to being in control.

But, if a company as well known as Google had an easy to use, data-driven tool available to the public for free, then the customer is empowered to know as much as Google does about their roof.  This is a very powerful bit of leverage, if it is done correctly.  Leverage means more competition, lower prices, deeper solar adoption.

Some companies are already trying to use Google data to make money here, so why not just make it free (and make solar cheaper):  

There are a host of new startups that are basically taking Google maps data and building applications on top of them to give the appearance of "automated" or "semi-automated" customer solar system designs.  Firms such as Aurora, HelioScope, EasySolar are attempting to "automate" the design process to save big bucks and make the installer more competitive.  While this is interesting, it seems much more logical that the process just be fully automated by a company with the resources to tackle such a problem, like GOOGLE, and then be done with it.  If the first step in anyone looking to go solar was to type their address into Google and let the app do the work, then lets just jump to that solution today.

Google is Google, and they currently make their money doing other things:  

In my dream scenario, I type my address into Google, type in my power usage, click "Go" and then print off my step by step instructions on going solar.  It tells me where to buy my panels, where to buy my racking, the names of 5 electricians in my area that will connect it for me, and the names of 5x roofing companies willing to do the install.  It helps me to understand my potential, give me the confidence I am not getting bamboozeld!  Oh and it fills out my permit paperwork so I can take it right to city hall for signature.  Please Google... make my dreams come true!  Since Google currently makes money doing other things, I also hope that this process will be free, or close to free, since keeping down costs and widening accessibility is critical to deeper solar adoption.

Solar should be as simple as buying a washing machine:

You can buy a 500W washing machine and plug it in at home without a signature from the government or your power company.  But once the electricity goes the other direction, everyone wants to get involved.  What is this silly-ness?  The world needs to get comfortable with bi-directional electricity, and a company like Google helping to change the status quo can only help speed the process of making the installation of generation as simple as the installation of load.

Here is a YouTube video for Sunroof.  I look forward to keeping tabs on this project and using it for my own house once it comes to Orange County / Los Angeles!

View Comments

ASES Talk: Why Now is the Best Time Ever to be a Solar Entreprenuer

At the Penn State Conference Center last week, a large contingent of passionate solar folk and American Solar Energy Society leaders gathered to visit the annual ASES Solar Conference.  I (Adam) stopped by for a day to talk about ASES, meet the people who make up such a great organization and give a talk titled "Why now is the best time ever to be a solar entrepreneur".  My goal was simply to point out the things I've seen happening in the industry lately that could be helpful to the budding entrepreneur.

The basic crux of the presentation is that now IS the best time for the budding solar entrepreneur, because solar is just recently gaining acceptance as a "real business".  ITC uncertainty aside (for the US market at least), solar is positioned these days for the long haul, to be a major contender in the mix for global growth in demand for electricity.  However at the same time, there are no shortage of problems (hidden opportunities really!) in solar that I feel entrepreneurs are distinctly positioned to capture.

I've posted my presentation in PDF format at the link below.  I'd love for anyone who is interested to review it, leave your own thoughts or give feedback to me on the topic.

Download Why Now is the Best Time Ever to be a Solar Entrepreneur (PDF)
View Comments

Another Electric Car Company, Faraday Future, Launches in Gardena, CA

Last month the OCR blog post was about the re-launch of Fisker with headquarters in Costa Mesa and manufacturing plans for Moreno Valley.  A new month, a new electric car company in the LA area!

Faraday Future, a 2014 founded start up in "stealth mode" until just a few days ago and filled with ex-Tesla talent has opened the kimono a little on their plans to challenge Tesla and other established car makers in the race for the first long range affordable electric car.

Like Fisker, they have set up shop in SoCal (Gardena), likely hoping to draw on the what seems like a constant stream of aerospace layoffs and company relocations (see this Boeing article from Dec, 2014) and also the recent departure of Toyota from nearby Torrance.

Also like Fisker they have a bunch of openings on their careers page.  It is certainly very odd to see two electric car companies announce SoCal headquarters instead of the default Bay Area locale, however it is sometimes easier to attract non-rooted workers to SoCal rather than the Bay because of housing affordability.  This is of course GREAT news for all us here in OC & surrounding area as OC + LA continues the real-time rise as a clean tech power, and the LA basin continues to attract tech talent, investment and employment!

Let's see if threes-a-charm and another electric car company announces LA plans in August!
View Comments

The MagniSun from OC Outdoor Solar now avaliable on Indiegogo

 A very cool announcement from OC based company and OC Renewables member Brian Yanity's company OC Outdoor Solar, the launch of their new portable solar charging product called the MagniSun via a live Indiegogo campaign which is embedded in the post below.

This is a very unique product, with the ability to attach magnetically to any fabric surface, such as a beach umbrella or tent.  Rugged, stylish and able to change any USB device... what are you waiting for?!?

Get over to IndieGogo and get it now!

View Comments

The OC is slowly becoming a solar / clean tech power center, and here's why...

OCR was founded in 2009, but the level of activity around renewable energy and energy efficiency in the OC since then has been fairly modest.  A few solar rooftops here, a few solar rooftops there, but nothing all that grand.  Until recently.  Things have really started to pickup, but I'll let the facts speak for themselves:

2 of the 3 biggest solar events in the US this year are happening in Orange County

The two biggest conference in the US every year are Intersolar and Solar Power International.  On the odd years, there is a 3rd and even larger event, the DOE Solar Decathlon, which can draw up to 100,000 visitors over a two week period with participation from up to 20x university teams from around the world.  Solar Power International comes to Anaheim this September, followed by the Solar Decathlon in Irvine this October.  Talk about a one-two punch for the OC!

Big Companies are setting up shop

We mentioned in June that Fisker Automotive is BACK with headquarters in Costa Mesa, manufacturing plans in Moreno Valley and with a long backlog of jobs it needs to hire for.  Backed by the Chinese firm Wanxiang, this is no longer a scrappy upstart, this is a serious company with a big balance sheet which appears to be planning for the long haul here in the OC.

Furthermore, another growing OC firm has been brought to our attention.  SunStreet Energy Group is a small firm rumored to be growing and staffing aggressively, with headquarters in Irvine, CA.  SunStreet is fully owned and operated by the $10 billion dollar Lennar Homes Corporation, one of the nations largest home builders.  Again, no scrappy upstart here, this is a serious organization with a serious mission to install major amount of solar.

Combine these happenings with the professional organization Clean Tech OC which has been promoting the industry in the OC for years now and you get a healthy atmosphere for clean tech business in the county.

Growing Academic presence

Back in March OCR did a blog post about UCI Professor and water expert Jay Famiglietti and the amount of press attention he was getting from serious news organizations.  But to add further to OC's academic credentials, a team of three OC colleges has formed the Casa Del Sol Solar Decathlon team, one of the 17x competing this year in Irvine.

OC Consumers no longer afraid of "clean tech"

Everyone knows that the OC is not Berkeley.  In the historically conservative county, the OC masses are not exactly expected to replace every car with a Prius, switch out to LEDs and start line drying the laundry.  However when a clean tech product does meet the .. how do you say.. OC style, adoption can be drastic.  Case in point: The Tesla Model S.  Business Insider reported last week of problems with wait lines at the Telsa Supercharger in San Juan Capistrano.  Apparently the demand on the location is out sized due to the number of Model S in the area and some using for daily charging instead of using them for longer trips, which is what Tesla suggests.

While things are clearly "heating up" here in the OC, one can't help but wonder if this is an isolated occurrence, or if clean tech is ramping in cities across the US?  Comments anyone?

View Comments