A large obstacle to the growth of the solar market is the overwhelming array of information and choices that must be made in order to implement solar energy in the home. The complexity of information about the benefits of solar energy, the technology decisions and the financing programs available results in a message to consumers which is both confusing and dull. This situation creates the need for an innovative application or tool that supports solar energy adoption.
The presentation needs to be relevant to the consumer; it needs to clearly demonstrate the benefits of solar energy using examples based on real data and visualizations that will grab the attention of the public, offering education in an entertaining way. We want to solve the problem described by SunPower founder Richard Swanson at the Nov. 14, 2011 Energy Seminar:
“They don’t understand kilowatt-hours, they don’t understand what it is used for, where it comes from. They don’t understand how energy addicted we are, how energy intensive we are…We’ve got energy all through our society, from making fertilizer, to plowing the fields, to transporting it in refrigerated trucks to the market, refrigerating it at the grocery store. An amazing amount of energy embedded in that whole thing. And that is the kind of thing people need to understand. Rather than what photons are coming into silicon.”
For example, demonstrate the environmental benefits of solar based on concepts that people can relate to and understand, develop an integrated financial picture that captures current and projected electric costs with estimated savings from solar and relevant incentive programs, and combine solar energy and Green Button data to track the complete picture of energy usage after solar panel installation.
The challenge is to present the information in a way that is both educational AND inspiring. A great example of a motivating message is from the popular television show “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” where the subject of alternative energy and climate change was covered. The narrator, Tyson says,
“Beyond a reasonable doubt, we are changing the climate. The Sun isn’t the problem, but it is the solution.”
This is the type of message that needs to be broadcast to the public in order to motivate them into action.
In summary, we need to rethink how energy concepts are being presented to the consumer. Instead of using difficult to understand terminology and irrelevant numbers, develop a way to demonstrate the benefit of solar energy visually. Move away from the traditional educational methods that can be confusing and dull. By using data visualizations, real examples and feedback of actual performance, the message will be inspiring and further advance the usage of solar energy.
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