RoofRay Launches Online Solar Clearinghouse

The biggest complaint we hear from homeowners who are considering rooftop solar systems is the lack of information: How much will it cost; how long until it pays off; who’s the best local installer? A new site that launched this morning, is looking to help answer all of those queries using satellite data and a hands-on web site — RoofRay.com.

The creator of RoofRay, former dotcom entrepreneur Chris Bura, says his site is like Zillow meets Lending Tree for residential solar. Basically it’s a solar clearinghouse that uses Google satellite data and info from the National Renewable Energy Labs to help users make good decisions about what sort of system to buy.

Here’s how it works: enter an address, pull up the satellite image of the chosen building’s rooftop and then using the RoofRay tool based on Google maps, draw your solar arrays (see image below and YouTube video below the jump). Data on square footage of the system, slope of the roof, power per square foot and total peak power all show up in a chart, and the info displayed depends on how big you’ve drawn your system.

After drawing the panels you can dive into metrics based on the size and location of your solar system, including projected performance, financial analysis, average monthly utility bill after solar is added, total cost summary and, our favorite, time until the system pays for itself. (Update: Currently the site only has California utility rates, but Bura says he is adding in other states soon). When Bura walked us through the site, we made our roof top solar system quite massive and discovered it would be a good decade until it would break even.

Overall the system gives users as much detailed info as they’d ever want about a system. (Solar geeks, you’ll be in heaven.) Though, all that information could also be a drawback; a simpler option for users that don’t want to spend so much hands-on drawing time could make it a lot more user-friendly. We’re also not sure how close the projections are to how the solar system will actually work in real life, but users with existing solar systems, test it out and let us know.

The biggest potential of the site for the user could be the ability to test out how good a home’s solar potential is before buying it. (That’s where the Zillow comparison really comes into play.) There’s also a search function to be able to find solar systems on buildings in your area, so you can see which installers your neighbors have been signing up with.

Bura spent under $50,000 over the last 6 months building out the site with the help of just one engineer. He plans to raise funding, incorporate the company, and hire a co-founder and 2 developers to build out the site even more. The site is free to use and Bura says his business model is a combo of AdSense ads and potential partnerships with solar installers — we could see the site as a potentially good lead generator. Check out the system and give Bura some feedback; he’s currently working on validation testing.

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