Crowdsourcing Sunshine: Web App Advises Homeowners on Solar

A version of this story originally appeared on NoCamels – Israeli Innovation News

996x497 By Johanna Weiss

“Here comes the sun,” the Beatles sing. And that makes us happy. Because not only does the sun shine free of charge, it could also be a great way to earn some extra money.

That’s why Generaytor, a Tel Aviv-based startup, has devised a cool Web-based app that allows us to see in real time how much money we can make by placing solar panels on our roof. And IKEA has already adopted it to convince customers to go solar.

CEO and founder Amit Rosner says it all began when salesmen started knocking on his brother’s door, trying to convince him to install solar panels and promising a good return on investment. Even though Rosner’s brother lives in the sunny state of California, Rosner says, “It was incredible to see how long it took him before he decided to do the right thing and go solar.”

Rosner says his brother’s experience showed him how complicated the decision-making process is for people who are not familiar with solar energy. “Since it is a long-term investment, it is important to make an educated decision,” Rosner says.

Rosner’s own educated decision was to help people in their own decision-making process. He quit his job, co-founded Generaytor with Idan Ofrat and Paolo Tedone, and raised raised $1 million in 2012. The outcome is a platform that connects novices with people who already generate solar energy and are ready to share their experience with those who want to learn more about it.


Crowdsourcing sunshine

Generaytor’s concept is simple: On one side there are people who already produce solar energy. Some are idealists who want to be independent of the public electricity supply (which in most countries is still based on fossil fuels). Others do so simply because they consider it to be a smart investment. Whatever the reason, Generaytor found that many of them are happy to share their experience and data related to their solar energy production.

Generaytor then gathers information about users’ roofs, such as size, location and shade. It accumulates data from private solar producers region-by-region and, based on that, offers calculation of the solar potential in different locations.

Basically, users can go to the website, type in their roof’s specifications and the app will show them how much electricity they can produce. Generaytor says it’s important for them to be objective, and they do sometimes tell users not to invest in solar.

“As sunshine does not cost anything, we think the same should be true for the knowledge around solar energy – it should be for free and easily accessible,” Rosner states, explaining how this perception led to the business model. Generaytor’s services are free for homeowners. There are no advertisements on their webpage and Generaytor does not sell any panels themselves. “This is important, because if we [sold advertisements] we would not be objective, we would lose credibility and miss the whole point of creating a transparent platform where people can make a sound decision in a trustworthy environment.”

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