No need to thank us, Phoenicians. Just doing our job.
See, every time the San Francisco-based solar buying collective, 1BOG (an acronym for “one Block Off the Grid”), tweeted about starting up a program in another city, we’d tweet back: “When are you coming to Phoenix?!” Today, 1BOG announced they had decided (finally!) to oil the squeaky wheel that is The Phoenix Sun.
They didn’t put it that way, exactly, but what else could account for their decision? The Valley of the Sun being the largest nearly untapped solar market in the country? The presence of so many competent solar installers? The local, state and national incentives?
Maybe. But the point is they’re here, and that means a 15% price break for residents who install PV rooftop arrays through the 1BOG bulk buying program. (We first wrote about 1BOG, here, back in May.)
We chatted with 1BOG co-founder Dave Llorens and operations and development head Brad Burton over lunch a couple of weeks ago. The pair was in Phoenix to make a final decision on which solar installer would be the 1BOG partner.
We asked what factors went into their decision.
“We look for a number of things,” said Llorens. “Obviously, price is very important. We want to make sure our customers get a good deal for their money.”
The relatively high upfront investment in going solar is still one of the greatest hurdles facing even the “greenest” of homeowners. And buying in volume was the concept that originally launched 1BOG.
But Llorens and Burton stress other factors including customer satisfaction and a track record that covers several years.
“It would be easy just to put out bids and sign up whoever provides the best deal,” explains Llorens. “But the best deal in the short-run may not turn out to be the best deal in the long-run.”
“The panels should last thirty years,” adds Burton. “Low cost in the beginning is good, but not if it comes at the expense of poor customer service a few years in.”
And the winner is…REC Solar, Inc.
In the end, 1BOG chose one of the largest solar installers in the nation, REC Solar. REC certainly has the track record Llorens was looking for; they’ve been around for a dozen years (which in the solar install world, is very credible). And REC is known for its emphasis on customer satisfaction. In 2008’s annual “Best of the Bay” contest held by the San Francisco Chronicle, readers voted REC Solar Best in Solar Power.
In a press released issued today, REC Solar manager Cary Hayes said the company was “thrilled to be selected as 1BOG’s preferred partner for the Phoenix community program.”
As most owners of solar-powered homes will tell you, they get a deep sense of satisfaction by actually seeing in real time how much energy their array is producing. Many solar companies provide monitors for that purpose, and REC is no exception. The digital display is the size of a wall-mounted digital thermostat.
All of the factors above add up to something greater than the sum of its parts.
Says Llorens: “What we really offer is a more comfortable way to go solar.” Roof-mounted PV systems are not new, but the growth of the industry has skyrocketed, and that’s had the unfortunate consequence of presenting would-be solar buyers with a bewildering number of choices: of panel types, system sizes, incentives to apply for and firms to install the array. 1BOG streamlines and untangles the process. In essence, you’re only making one major decision: to use 1BOG or not.
At a little over one year old, 1BOG understands that for their company to survive, they have to build a solid foundation of credibility themselves.
“Right now there are close to 15,000 1BOG members looking to put solar panels on their homes,” says Llorens. “We think that’s a pretty strong endorsement of our program, just a year out of the gate.”
1BOG Solar Cities
Before you start tweeting “When is 1BOG coming to my town?!” check out the lists below. They may already have started a program in your city, or are preparing to launch one.
SF Bay, CA Solar Program
Los Angeles, CA Solar Program
San Diego, CA Solar Program
New Orleans, LA Solar Program
Denver, CO Solar Program
Sonoma County, CA Solar Program
Phoenix, AZ Solar Program
Coachella Valley, CA Solar Program
On the horizon
Aspen, CO Solar Program
Boston, MA Solar Program
Brooklyn, NY Solar Program
Chicago, IL Solar Program
Las Vegas, NV Solar Program
Portland, OR Solar Program
Seattle, WA Solar Program
Sacramento, CA Solar Program