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The Simple & Sexy Side of Solar Energy
by Rick Hemphill & photos by Turner Photography Studio
Geostellar wants to help you see if solar energy is right for you.
For the last 4 billion years, thermonuclear fusion has powered the sun sending vast amounts of energy into space. Finally, the time has come when we can harness that power directly into electricity — cheaply and efficiently — from the roof of our homes. You’ve no doubt seen the solar panels popping up all around, but how to take advantage of the options and opportunities can seem 96 million miles away.
To help reduce the apparent information to implementation gap, CEO David Levine’s company Geostellar, Inc., has created a website to help you determine your solar future by basically clicking and typing away on their website.
“Love,” “money,” “power,” and “glory” emblazon the walls of Geostellar. “That is a reminder of what people should go solar for,” David exclaims. “Money for your pocket! Love for the planet! Power for your home, and glory for your deeds!” David goes on to talk about the enduring effects living this mantra can have for families. “We have couples who are intensely moved that they are able to remove this much carbon pollution for their grandchildren.” Above and beyond the environmental net-positive, the financial bright side of solar energy is proving to be just as fulfilling. “The saving from the installation will outperform the S&P 500 by enormous amounts, while generating your own electricity is empowering. Plus solar homes automatically look more attractive to people as being smart and sexy,” David adds.
Operating out of the old YMCA building in Martinsburg, W.Va., Geostellar has created sophisticated software. That software is paired with immense amounts of data from many sources to take the topographical layout of your home into account when placing solar panels for optimal effect. At the same time, powerful algorithms calculate your savings and costs.
Working With You, For You
“We are the advocate for the homeowner. We are not pushing any particular solution,” David says. “On the website we can match the equipment type with the financing and the installer and put together the best value pack for the customer and support them with inside sales.” For the homeowner, the straightforward and comprehensive aspect of the Geostellar platform offers everything needed to show how much you can save. “With our LIDAR (laser guided radar used by aircraft) data we know how many panels you can fit on your roof and how much energy you will get,” David adds. And for the consumer, there really aren’t that many rules of thumb for taking advantage of solar power, other than you don’t want the roof shaded. While south facing is better, east and west provide morning and afternoon sun. But long before any decision needs to be made, the guesswork is removed, as Geostellar matches each homeowner with customized designs and local installers,
This is where the experts at Geostellar can really help. “We are now dealing almost exclusively with private homeowners, and solar can increase the value of your home by 17 percent,” David explains. “Come to the website, type in your address and we will contact you to talk through your profile.” Naturally, customers need to factor a few things in from their own perspective, namely financing the endeavor. “We think loans are much better for the homeowner and we can match a lender with the owner. Particularly in Maryland, a lot of people can save money from day one by paying off the loan in 12 years and have free electricity for 18 years,” David says. There are also compensation programs geared toward consumers of solar energy to factor in. For instance, every megawatt hour generated through solar panels earns a $150 Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) for the power generated — so for the next five years, it’s possible that a lot of people in Maryland could have zero bills, which could be directed toward paying for the loan.
The key to solar these days is not about the direction of the panels but the cost of electricity. “What you are looking at is a levelized cost of energy,” David stresses. “What is the cost per kilowatt hour of the electricity that you are producing versus what you are paying? If you pay cash for your solar system you are probably paying 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour, while in Maryland you are paying about 14 cents for power directly from the grid.”
Point, Click, Talk
David admits the website starts the process, but most of the processing is on the phone or face to face where you can work through the entire design. A lot of companies offer a power purchase agreement (PPA) where a vendor installs the solar equipment in return for the homeowner purchasing their electricity from the vendor at a fixed (generally lower) rate for 20 years.
This is easier on the homeowner’s out-of-pocket expenses and may work for those who can’t take full advantage of the tax credits available. “This a reasonable bet, but with the price of electricity going up and the cost of solar going down, are the PPA holders going to be happy with the future bills?” David asks. “It can also be a problem if you go to sell your house, as the purchaser may not want the PPA.”
February 22 marked Geostellar’s sixth year in operation and that makes them ancient in Internet years. David got the idea for Geostellar while working for another company that mined satellite photos for insights into commodities trading. David partnered with Brighton Dawe — who he calls the physics and math genius behind the algorithms that power the site; Butch Deal, who handles the solar system designs and processing systems; and Jeremy Debranski, who is the chief technology officer and web guru to anchor the four corners of their burgeoning enterprise. “It is the four of us that got this going and now we have a team of 30 people,” David says. “The beautiful thing about our business is that we are riding a technology curve just like micro processors and bandwidth. The way power is getting cheaper, denser, and more efficient is by capturing a lot more radiant light.”
A Solar Party
The best way to show off your new solar installation is with the Solar Powered Happy Hour that Geostellar will host for your friends. “They have been really fun and helpful,” David says. “Depending on what level of solar you go with, we will show up and throw a party for your neighbors and we have some really good local artists perform.” While it’s great that a clean energy like solar power has become sexy in the mainstream, the question for many remains, “Should I wait?” For David, the answer is a simple one. “The issue is that, is all the time you are waiting, you are not saving money.”
Check it out for yourself. Plug your info into their website, and see what solar can do for you, the planet, and your energy bills.
Go to www.geostellar.com or call toll-free 1.855.982.1341.