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Solar rooftops only work in specific environments: an area with enough sun, a roof with the right tilt, a state or city with strong subsidies. But a company called Geostellar is using big data tools to help its solar installer customers deliver more solar panels to more rooftops in places where it actually makes economic sense. Later this year, the company plans to release an open API — so developers can build applications on top of it — and eventually, the company plans to launch a consumer-facing site.
Year-old Geostellar pulls together at least 25 different types of data into its platform, including information about weather, shadows, roof slope, closest transmission lines, property values, land use, electricity rates, solar subsidies, and solar hazards. In addition, the company is constantly adding in more data sets like information about brownfields — a sudden hot area for solar installers — and data from pertinent recent legislation explained Geostellar CEO David Levine in an interview with me this week.
All that data goes into a system solar installers and utilities can use to search for useful data to target solar customers. For example, a solar installer could search Geostellar’s system for the locations of rooftops of a certain size in New Jersey or California and hone a mailing list down to the best potential candidates. The system can also estimate the amount of solar power, in kilowatt-hours/per year, that any rooftop would be able to produce if it had panels on it.
The solar rooftop companies are all fighting over a few select markets right now — California, New Jersey and Massachusetts — noted Levine, and Geostellar’s platform can help increase their sales. The company sells access to the software via a monthly license and then also charges the users for the data, depending on how extensive it is. So far pilot customers include CleanPath Renewables, Community Energy and AES Solar in Northern Virginia.
Eventually Geostellar will offer a consumer facing site, so interested solar buyers can search their own home — or their neighbors — to see how solar-friendly it is. RoofRay is offering a similar idea. Levine said Geostellar wanted to launch the industry section first to grow its revenues, before it launched a consumer site, which would likely be free to access.
Geostellar, based in West Virginia, has raised $2 million from a group of angel investors including Flash Forward Ventures, and the company plans to start raising a Series B round after it has closed a couple more customer deals.