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Summary:

Frickin’ laser beams will power Sungevity’s new instant quote service.

A Sungevity solar installation in the Maldives, courtesy of Sungevity.
photo: Image courtesy of Sungevity.

Solar startup Sungevity is pulling in as much data as it can to help convince potential solar customers to buy solar panels for their rooftops — including data from frickin’ laser beams from the sky. This week Sungevity announced the latest upgrade to its service iQuote, which uses “lidar,” — like radar, but with laser beams, not radio waves — to help produce instant images of a solar panel system mocked up on the rooftop of a potential customer’s home, as well as a quote for how much such a system would cost.

LIDAR stands for light detection and ranging, and the system uses light to measure the distance and ranges of the landscape from on high. Often times planes and helicopters are used to collect such data. Sungevity bought this data from a third party to map out 3D landscapes across the Bay Area and Southern California. The new iQuote service is being piloted at Lowe’s stores in California.

Sungevity's iQuote service. Image courtesy of Sungevity.

Sungevity’s iQuote service. Image courtesy of Sungevity.

The “soft costs” of rooftop solar panels — everything that isn’t the hardware — make up more than half of the cost of a solar system. Companies like Sungevity are hard at work trying to reduce the costs of marketing, financing, and customer acquisition.

Oakland-based Sungevity, founded in 2007, has been growing quickly and raised $125 million over a year ago to expand. Company investors include Brightpath Capital Partners, Lowe’s, Vision Ridge Partners, Craton Equity Partners and Eastern Sun Capital Partners.

Sungevity handles sales and marketing, system design and financing deals, for residential solar panel systems, but the company farms out the installation work to contractors. Other companies like SolarCity — which recently went public — does all that and also installs the panels. Competitors in the market include SunRun, Clean Power Finance,  Solar Universe, Brightergy and Solmentum.

Solar panels are seeing dramatic growth in the U.S. this year and residential solar installations are growing faster than industrial or commercial installations. The U.S. is supposed to install 6.6 GW of solar in 2014.

  1. Readers should note that start up Geostellar has been doing this for several years.

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    1. Readers should note that both Sungevity and Geostellar are pathetic.

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    2. Alex Martinez Thursday, July 10, 2014

      GeoStellar was founded in 2010, Sungevity was founded in 2007.

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      1. Richard Deal Friday, July 11, 2014

        Geostellar has been doing solar modeling based on LiDAR since early 2010 and covers all 50 states plus DC. Sungevity just got a system going with just a few southern CA.
        Katie has even done several stories on Geostellar’s Big Data engine.

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  2. Hey good for you champs, picking up on this 3D tech after only a decade. I assumed you were already doing this for “iquotes” but I guess you’re just a bit slow to the draw. Now I get why you’ve lost so much money, inaccurate proposals and a call center full of underpaid employees. Hopefully its not too late to turn over a new leaf.

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    1. Damn, some Sungevity haters out there.

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      1. Patrick Lawson Friday, July 11, 2014

        To be fair to the “haters”. The solar industry is a bit “slow” when it comes to incorporating existing and new tech into their business models as they mature. Look how slow the industry is at simply adopting loan programs.

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  3. I’m not sure why there are some Sungevity haters out there. I had Sungevity install my solar system in March 2013 and it is performing better than expected and Sungevity’s website provides me with all of the information I need to monitor my solar system’s output. So… what is the problem guys? Note: I paid my entire lease cost up front so my lease cost per kwh is fixed at about $0.115 per kwh – less than what PG&E is currently charging for tier 1 in San Joaquin County.

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  4. I’m going to see if I can get a quote for my Virginia address.

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  5. Still too costly…….Return to homeowners avg. $10 a month. Cost needs to go down and contractors not to take advantage by charging way over and above the cost of the panels .

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  6. christophermirabile Sunday, July 13, 2014

    C’mon, Katie, you can do better than this. You are my favorite green and IOT journalist in the biz and so it is from a place of respect that I point out that this is old news. Kind of a click-bait headline too. Tell your editor I said so.

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  7. BenjaminFranklin Sunday, July 20, 2014

    Haters hate. That’s what they do. Inventors invent. That’s what they do. No new technology has ever come along and disrupted existing ways of doing things without generating a backlash of doubters and haters. “Why drive that electric thing, my horse does just fine…” etc. Rooftop solar is changing the way the world uses electricity. For over 100 years we’ve relied upon distant generators and distant companies to take our money and give us energy. Now, one by one, people are generating their own electricity right on their rooftops. This is a major disruption happening right now to business models and profit streams. It’s all very exciting or scary, depending on your perspective. Yes, there will be doubters and haters. And yes, there will be visionaries and pioneers.

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