2012-06-07

Co.Exist

How Valuable Is Your Roof? Put It Up For Solar Auction

Your most valuable asset may be sitting right above your head. And a solar power company may be eager to pay you for it.

Your most overlooked piece asset, your roof, is now a hot market.

A new firm launching this month, Gridbid, allows homeowners to auction the solar installation rights to their roofs online. The company says solar installers can save as much as 80% of what what they normally spend to find roof-top space, while the average residential utility bill drops between 10 to 35%.

Just because you want solar power (and you probably do, it’s starting to become the cheapest option in many states) doesn’t mean it’s easy to find a company to put panels on your roof. On the other side of the coin, there has been a proliferation of solar installers, companies that will pay for your solar installation in exchange for a cut of the money you make selling your extra solar power back to the grid. But these companies need lots of roofs to put their panels on, in order to scale their business. It’s pretty costly for them to go scout locations and then try to sell people on solar panels. Gridbid aims to be an easy place to connect these two mutually interested parties.

The idea, according to founder Thomas Kinshanko, CEO of parent company Habitat Enterprises, came after seeing all the inefficiencies that still plague the market for residential solar. "After speaking with over 100 players in the solar market, we found that solar installers were paying way too much in business development costs (sometimes up to 20% of total project cost) and building and home owners were struggling to find and select high quality, affordable solar installers," says Kinshanko. "We came up with Gridbid to solve both problems."

Piloted this March, Gridbid says it auctioned more than $300,000 in rooftop solar projects during its first week online, helping building owners go solar, while some of the 4,000 or so solar installers in the US competed to install more panels. Owners filled out a short online form and GridBid computed roofs’ solar potential and projected monthly savings. Local installers then submited "bids" for owners to select the best deal. 

Globally, there’s no shortage of demand. McKinsey and Company’s Solar Power report (PDF) finds the solar-photovoltaic (PV) sector is already a $100 billion business, with installed capacity to grow almost 100 fold to 500 GW in the next eight years.

If it all goes according to plan, roofs may become the next valuable asset class. Sometimes money does fall from the sky.

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