Right now, many of the solar projects you read about are intended supplemental energy sources. That is, the technology being installed is offsetting some portion of a home's or business's energy use. Make sense in these early days. But would you be more inclined to invest in some solar if it not only cost less than $1,000, but could be installed by YOU in a day -- rather than over the course of weeks by someone with an electrical degree?
The same sort of mentality that helped kickstart the personal computing industry is being advocated by Clarian Power, which is working on a product called Sunfish that it hopes will be sold in retailers like Best Buy, CostCo, or Lowe's Energy Center.
Sunfish, which is essentially a solar appliance, basically plugs into your existing outlets. The base unit is a 200-watt solar panel with microinverter that comes with a wireless Web access point, so that you can monitor your usage. Basically, you mount the unit, plug the thing in and activate it over the Internet. When I spoke with the company's president Chad Maglaque, he said Seattle-based Clarian is testing the technology with the Google PowerMeter.
"This is not about powering your home, it is about slowing down the meter," Maglaque says.
So, you can't buy this thing yet. Clarian is hoping to start selling it in the spring at a starting price point of around $799 for one solar panel. You actually will be able to expand up to five panels, Maglague says. That configuration (which gives you 1 kilowatt) would handle about 15 percent of a typical household's power consumption, he estimates.
Two other things to know about Clarian.
- The company is one of the start-ups being considered for potential funding as part of the GE Ecomagination challenge. You could imagine, also, that Clarian would benefit from GE's vast appliance distribution and service network. If you want to vote for the Sunfish, you have until Sept. 30 to do so.
- Clarian is ALSO working on a wind turbine appliance called the Jellyfish that will be priced starting between $399 and $699. That technology is also due next year, although the timeframe is less definitive.