1BOG helps homeowners use their collective buying power to win discounts on solar installations. It also helps installers expand their client base
Last weekend’s New York Times Magazine featured a story about 1BOG, a company that helps homeowners use their collective buying power to win discounts on solar installations.
So far, 1BOG – shorthand for “one block off the grid,” a metaphor for removing the equivalent of a block of housing off the power grid – has launched four collective-buying campaigns. Three more are close to launch.
A hundred or more homeowners must sign up in a given region before a campaign in that region can begin. Once a campaign begins, 1BOG launches a “request for proposal” to area installers, whom 1BOG evaluates based on several criteria, including the dollar-per-watt price offered, company history, staffing levels, and whatever extras (free energy audits, say, or monitoring services) an installer might offer members of the buying collective.
In other words, 1BOG is the middleman that helps homeowners organize their buying collective, helps them determine whether they’re good candidates for solar power, keeps them apprised of their campaign’s progress, and vets installer bids. 1BOG makes its money from flat, per-customer referral fees it collects from the installers. Homeowners pay nothing for 1BOG services.
1BOG’s pilot campaign, launched last summer in San Francisco, where the company is based, was also its smallest: 180 homeowners signed up and 41 eventually purchased solar power. The company’s biggest campaign, whose enrollment closed at the end of January, attracted more than 1,200 San Francisco Bay Area residents, says 1BOG operations and development director, Brad Burton, adding that the final sales count has not yet been determined.
Beyond the eventual savings in energy costs, the lure for homeowners is that collective buying can trim the per-watt price of a system before federal and local tax incentives and rebates kick in. Burton points out that the selected installer for a campaign in Los Angeles, REC Solar, would typically charge $7.63 per watt, or $22,890 for a 3kW system, but through 1BOG collective buying the per-watt cost is $7.18, or $21,540. If the 1BOG program in L.A. collectively installs more than 150kW, the per-watt price will drop to $7.08, Burton says.
1BOG has partnered with four installers – one for each campaign: Real Goods Solar, based in Hopland, California; SolarCity, based in Foster City, California; REC, based in San Luis Obispo, California; and groSolar, based in White River Junction, Vermont.
“We completely believe in the 1BOG program, and we support organizing communities to purchase solar-power systems,” says Kevin Ellis, a representative for groSolar, which partnered with 1BOG on the collective buy in San Francisco. The installer is one of the bidders for a 1BOG campaign emerging in San Diego, Ellis adds.
We’ll have more on 1BOG as additional campaigns emerge.
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