Solar firms combine energy
One Block Off the Grid, the for-profit solar buying collective launched in 2008, is teaming with solar installer groSolar and green job training nonprofit Solar Richmond to train low-income Bay Area residents in solar installation.
Through the program, 1BOG customers can make a donation, matched by 1BOG and groSolar, which would pay for on-site training for Solar Richmond graduates.
With the twofold aim of making residential solar adoption less confusing and less expensive, San Francisco-based One Block Off the Grid (1BOG) organizes homeowners into buying groups, and then negotiates a pricing with an installer.
1BOG has expanded to nine cities including Denver, San Diego and Los Angeles, growing from three staff members to 12. It has completed 15 solar installation campaigns, for a total of about 500 systems totaling more than 2 megawatts. When it began, the company’s stated goal was to reduce the cost of installing solar by 50 percent. So far, most customers are seeing a 15 percent to 25 percent savings, 1BOG president Avra Winograd-Hunter says.
The company, which makes money through referral fees it receives from installers, in late 2008 was acquired by San Francisco-based Virgance, which owns several for-profit sustainability-focused companies. Joining with Virgance has provided an extra dimension to 1BOG, Winograd-Hunter says, by helping scale the business and leveraging the its business model to grow new partnerships, such as the one with groSolar and Solar Richmond.
In 2010, 1BOG plans to add two cities per month to its roster, and complete three campaigns in each of its current locations, according to Winograd-Hunter.