Solar adoption gets a boost with Geostellar

Bringing Big Data down to earth isn’t just a figure of speech for Geostellar, a Washington, D.C.-based startup using social media to drive solar adoption. A big part of the $16 million it’s raised is being spent on crunching data and getting it into the hands of homeowners who want to generate their own clean energy.

“We’re all about the home owner,” CEO David Levine said in an interview at SXSW. “The energy industry hasn’t done them any favors. What people need is an advocate, something that works for them.”

What works is a transparent ROI, some marketplace effects and a sliver of competition, which Geostellar describes as the “Glory” piece in its marketing campaign.

For the past three years, Levine’s team has been building out its 3-D models, based on data that’s gathered by the same planes that Google, Apple and Microsoft use to snap pictures of the earth.

By combining its satellite imagery with the latest utility and energy rates, Geostellar uses your ZIP code to render three different snapshots of your home’s energy potential. Playing to different motivations, it displays the results under the categories, “Money,” ”Power” and “Glory," which show electricity savings, electricity output and CO2 emissions, respectively.

Guessing that most of us aren’t experts in the last two -- kilowatt-hours and carbon-dioxide tonnage -- it breaks those benefits into something more digestible, like how many flights or loads of laundry you avoided.

That’s where the social media part kicks in. They’re betting peer pressure will drive much of the adoption as neighbors try to one-up each other. Recent developments from companies like Opower -- which uses social media to encourage energy efficiency in the home and works with with more than 70 utilities -- show the approach is catching on. By liberating customer data around energy usage, behaviors and costs are amplified. In Geostellar’s case, current users can share their information within the application or externally on Facebook and Twitter.

Next page: Driving down costs