One Block Off The Grid (1BOG) is motivating homeowners to go solar by arranging and promoting group discounts for panels and installation services, especially in areas of the U.S. where the cost of electricity from traditional energy sources is on the rise.
In its latest such deal, 1BOG arranged a 15 percent discount via panel manufacturers Canadian Solar (NASDAQ: CISQ) and East Coast installers, Mercury Solar Systems, for homeowners in Philadelphia.
The deal with Canadian Solar represents a new, major partnership for 1BOG. Incorporated in 2001, Canadian Solar is a large panel producer that raked in net revenue of $452.7 million for the fourth quarter of 2010, up about 44 percent from the same period in 2009 (when net revenue was $254.2 million).
Backed by early investors in Groupon, New Enterprise Associates, 1BOG draws frequent comparisons to the daily deal site. Unlike Groupon, however, 1BOG reviews and endorses all of the equipment and services that it helps to sell; and its discounts are free. (You don’t have to buy the coupon you want to use, just sign up for it.)
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index over the last two months (Jan. 17, through Mar. 17, 2011) prices for electricity rose three percent for greater Philadelphia.
A company representative confirmed that 1BOG looks carefully at electricity pricing trends before developing deals. Where electricity remains cheapest, like in the southwestern U.S., it hasn’t gone fully to market, though environmental benefits of solar over old, if affordable, coal power systems there would be significant.
The discounts on panels and services from 1BOG are separate from attainable discounts from states and federal rebate programs for solar installations by homeowners. The 1BOG site offers users information on those, along with their own discounts.
As government budget hawks cut back feed-in-tariff, subsidy and rebate programs in the U.S. homeowners may increasingly rely on corporate discounts and deal sites like 1BOG to make their power installations more affordable. Wind and solar subsidies, of late, have been drying up in Europe. The fate of such programs in the U.S. is to be determined.
Residential solar installations in the U.S. only represented about 30 percent of all new solar installations here in 2010, according to a recent report from the Solar Energy Industry Association. They were a lagging market segment, as solar overall was on the rise in the U.S. with the industry’s total market value growing 67 percent from $3.6 billion in 2009 to $6.0 billion in 2010, according to the same report.
Image: Canadian Solar panel rooftop installation in Arizona, courtesy of Canadian Solar