Armageddon Energy: Taking the Pain Out of Home Solar Systems

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armageddonsolar4By Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

When you think of installing a solar system on your home, what is the first thought that comes to mind?  It will cost too much?  It will be complicated to install?  Or perhaps, you like the idea, but think solar panels are ugly?

A new start-up Armageddon Energy is working to remove these barriers and bring to market a “plug and play,” modular solar system that is visually appealing, smaller and cheaper than a standard home system and will possibly do for the home solar industry what Ikea did for home furnishings.

The business model?  Make it easy, accessible and affordable to sell small home solar system to the masses in a “big box” retail setting.

One of the most promising start-ups to watch

While the name, which alludes to the final battle between the forces of good and evil, has been a bit more controversial then CEO Mark Goldman expected, the company was named one of the five most promising start-ups to watch at the Clean Tech Open by Fast Company.

Fast Company reports, “Armageddon’s solar panels are significantly lighter than traditional 40-pound silicon-panels, mainly because the solar cells are coated in Teflon instead of glass. At $6 per watt, the panels produce power cheaply, too–that’s $1 per watt less than conventional systems.”

Removing the pain

In a greentech solar post, the Armageddon Energy system is described as “a solar system-in-a-box” that removes a lot of the “pain and expense from installing solar systems.”

They have designed a framing system and a lightweight solar panel that easily can go straight from a few cardboard boxes to your roof. Here is a short video clip illustrating how easy it is to install.

Siting and permitting issues

Another hurdle to get through with solar is siting and permitting issues.  Armageddon is working to tackle these challenges by developing a simple solar shade analysis tool to help home owners identify where to locate the system. They also have plans for a simple on-line training program to train installers how to permit and install the systems. Goldman’s hope is that the flat, streamlined design and simple install process will facilitate a simplified permit process.

When can you buy yours?

The initial prototype system was recently sold to a Fortune 100 company and they expect to have retail product on the market in June, 2010. The initial systems are expected to run $6,000 after rebates for a 1 kilowatt (kW) system, which can produce 1/5 of the average home’s energy. The system, when bundled with a consumer dashboard, has the potential to reduce home energy use by 20 to 25%. Eventually,  they hope to have their product on the shelves of Ikea and Best Buy.

I initially thought the company name related to the idea that if chaos hits and the power systems go down, those with solar systems will have enough back-up juice to keep the lights on.  However, the system is more complicated then that. According to Goldman, if the grid goes down, all the systems go down unless you disconnect the home system from the grid.

When I asked why a smaller system is better than a larger one (the average home system is 5 kW), Goldman explained it relates to peak shaving and creating a highly distributed system that is more stable and useful for utilities. And a smaller system and lower entry price can translate into a total system with more megawatts.

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Deborah Fleischer, founder and president of Green Impact, a strategic environmental consulting practice that helps companies identify key environmental issues, strengthen their relationships with stakeholders, develop profitable green initiatives and communicate their successes and challenges.

Since majoring in environmental studies in 1983, Deborah’s career has focused on environmental issues in both the public and private sectors. She is an expert in sustainability strategy, stakeholder engagement, program development and written communications. You can follow her occasional tweet @GreenImpact.

Deborah Fleischer is founder and president of Green Impact, a strategic sustainability consulting practice that helps companies walk the green talk. She helps companies design and launch new green strategies and programs, as well as communicate about successes. She is a GRI-certified sustainability reporter and LEED AP with a Master in Environmental Studies from Yale University and over 20-years of direct experience working on sustainability-related challenges in both the public and private sectors. She brings deep expertise in sustainability strategy, stakeholder engagement, program development and written communications.Deborah has helped to design and implement numerous successful cross-sector partnerships and new green initiatives, including the California Environmental Dialogue, Curb Your Carbon and the Institute at the Golden Gate.She has helped create lasting alliances among such organizations as Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy with companies such as Disney, Arco, Bank of America and Passport Resorts.You can follow her occasional tweet @GreenImpact or contact her directly at Deborah@greenimpact.com.