As the solar PV market grows, it is in some ways developing along the lines of markets for other products such as automobiles or airline tickets. This includes the rise of market intermediaries who can help consumers to access multiple vendors in an apples-to-apples comparison.
Today this business model received a strong validation, with the Connecticut sponsoring an online solar marketplace in collaboration with EnergySage. Through GoSolarCT.com, interested homeowners can compare bids for solar PV systems from a variety of installers, with a special emphasis on local companies.
“GoSolarCT is a very user-friendly one-stop shop of information on solar equipment, financing, and solar contractors,” said Connecticut Green Bank Managing Director Kerry O’Neill. “The entire solar lifecycle is outlined in an easy-to-understand format to help make going solar as simple and affordable as possible.
EnergySage has been growing rapidly since being founded three years ago, and expects over 1 million unique visitors on its marketplace this year, versus half a million in 2015, and to transact $70-$80 million in residential solar.
This is the first time that a state has sponsored EnergySage’s marketplace, or any online solar marketplace. However, it follows a partnership between EnergySage and utility National Grid in Rhode Island, where National Grid offers a co-branded version of EnergySage’s marketplace to potential customers.
It also follows on grant funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to create a New York-specific solar marketplace.
This could be only the beginning. EnergySage Founder and CEO Vikram Aggarwal says that his company is currently in discussions with about three dozen municipal and investor-owned utilities regarding partnerships similar to the one with National Grid.
“Utilities, municipalities and state organizations are realizing that there is a critical need to inform and educate their audience – their customers or their residents – about solar,” Aggarwal told pv magazine.
Aggarwal also notes that creating state-specific portals is an opportunity for local content. The NYSERDA-funded website includes information about New York incentives, electricity prices and other state-specific information, and in both New York and Connecticut there is information on local installers and finance providers.
Aggarwal says that this is of interest to local governments who want to keep their energy dollars in-state. “Solar is a very local market,” he observes.
Ultimately, Aggarwal is expecting growth not just for EnergySage, but for the online marketplace approach in general. “Transparency is the key to the success of this industry going forward,” he notes.