Vancouver home improvement product marketplace BuildDirect has added a Clean Energy component to its Home Marketplace, making it just as easy for homeowners to order renewable energy supplies as other home supplies for remodeling projects, putting home owners directly in touch with suppliers, eliminating the middle man and increasing efficiency.
The initial focus of BuildDirect Clean Energy’s is on solar energy products, ranging from photovoltaic (PV) panels, inverters, full off-grid kits, batteries and other types of energy storage equipment.
Many homeowners are noticing that renewable energy technology, particularly solar, is becoming mainstream and has hit a price point that makes sense, with the supply chain developed by BuildDirect potentially shaving further thousands of dollars off the up-front cost.
There remains, however, a lot of guesswork and confusion surrounding solar technology, which an online marketplace resembling a normal home supply site may help to resolve.
“We are at a tipping point as residential solar energy goes mainstream, with California leading the way declaring that all new homes must be net zero by 2020,” said Rob Banks, BuildDirect co-founder and executive officer. “Millions of consumers want to move to solar because it is an endlessly renewable resource that yields zero emissions and reduces power bills. And BuildDirect has a unique opportunity to eliminate inefficiencies and confusion in this growing space by helping connect homeowners with suppliers.”
Under California’s Residential ZNE Action Plan, 100% of all new homes in California will be Zero Net Energy starting in 2020.
Solar suppliers can ship either directly to consumers or to nearby warehouses, opening new sales channels for suppliers of solar equipment in regions of North America where renewable energy uptake is less well established.
In the three months after its launch in February, BuildDirect’s Home Marketplace grew 350%, nearly quadrupling its product count.
To develop its Clean Energy Home Marketplace, BuildDirect formed an advisory board consisting of cleantech experts, including Greg Bohl, former president and CEO of Solar Logic, and Ramez Naam, computer scientist, author, cleantech angel investor, and co-chair of the Energy and Environment program at Singularity University at NASA Ames.
“There have been tremendous advances with solar energy, but most homeowners have no way to get it,” noted Naam. “With BuildDirect’s Home Marketplace, suppliers gain access to new markets and homeowners have a wealth of information and solar energy products at their fingertips to help make solar a very practical and affordable solution for their lives.”
In the past 10 years, the hard costs of solar equipment have dropped dramatically, with the price of solar PV panels alone dropping over 70%.
According to the the University of California’s Berkeley Lab, the average price of solar energy has fallen to 5¢/kWh, bringing it in line with average wholesale electricity prices across the United States, which ranged from 3 to 6 cents/kWh, in 2014.
Social acceptance of solar energy has been further helped along by high-profile boosters like Elon Musk’s SolarCity and PowerWall battery company.
Reducing soft costs associated with labour and supply chain inefficiencies is a further way to encourage widespread adoption of the technology.