The 1AustinSol Community is a new approach that addresses the high cost of solar adoption to benefit the broader Austin community. Rather than focus on the conventional single household approach in using solar to offset that homeowner’s electricity bill, in 1AustinSol, solar is a pillar to a true community-wide approach where every stakeholder in the community is able to benefit financially.
Here’s how it works: Through the purchase of annual membership, 1AustinSol members receive discounts on purchases from member businesses. The businesses also pay a membership fee, and in return attract a new, loyal customer base to drive revenue growth. The proceeds from the membership fees are then used to fund the installation of rooftop solar on low-income homes built or repaired by Austin Habitat for Humanity. The solar installations are free to the low-income homeowners, allowing them to receive solar energy at no cost, freeing up critical dollars for other household necessities.
Additionally, 1AustinSol promotes investment in the local economy. 1AustinSol members are incentivized to shop at member businesses within their community. This provides a stable customer base for these businesses along with the potential to drive revenue growth and job creation within the community.
1AustinSol is launching with two sequential 50 kW campaigns. By the end of 2018, 1AustinSol will have at least 1000 members and 50 businesses supporting 100 kW of solar, all of which directly benefits 25 low-income families and collectively saving them $20,000 per year in electricity costs. We will continue to grow the membership base in the community in and outside of Austin to expand the number of families we can help and the impact we can make. Our 5-year goal is a 10,000 member community supporting over 1 MW of solar to power the homes of over 300 low-income families.
1AustinSol is facilitated by an innovative technology platform and app where members are kept engaged through the gamification of the community’s solar production. Members can monitor in real-time at 1 second resolution the amount of solar energy their community is producing and see the social and environmental impact of their membership. The value of the discounts offered by the member businesses is tied to the amount of the community’s collective solar production, driving customer engagement and the overall success of the community program.
To meet this demanding requirement, the 1PlanetSol team decided on cutting-edge technology stack comprised of technologies used by some of the biggest and best-known software companies. The backend database is powered by Influx and written in the Go programming language, pioneered by Google and optimized for time-series data like solar production. Our mobile application is built on React Native, the platform designed by Facebook that powers their huge mobile application base of Android and iOS users. Our 1PlanetSol website utilizes Bootstrap.js and Node.js, both leading edge frameworks used by some of the worlds most respected brands, enabling a fully responsive experience no matter the platform. And the backbone of 1PlanetSol is AWS, Amazon's venerable cloud solution; offering scalability, redundancy, and performance that the world's largest streaming provider, Netflix depends on. 1PlanetSol leverages AWS as the datastore for our granular solar consumption data. By utilizing the strength of the Amazon cloud we can provide real-time solar contributions, as well as all historical data, fully independent of the individual provider.
As 1AustinSol and affiliate 1PlanetSol communities grow to include hundreds and even thousands of homes, this real-time monitoring the of the community’s collective solar production and associated benefits will rely heavily on continued advances in low-latency, high-bandwidth gigabit internet technology.
1PlanetSol is an all volunteer Austin-based non-profit expanding the benefits of renewable energy to underserved communities. Our team is the perfect combination of entrepreneurs, software developers, UX designers, and Austin-based affordable housing experts to develop the 1AustinSol platform and bring it to market to best serve the needs of Austinites.
Scott Nguyen, founder and executive director of 1PlanetSol, is an entrepreneur and Harvard trained PhD physicist with over a decade of experience in the energy industry building businesses and technologies for both venture-funded start-ups and major corporations. Matt Ross and Monisha Saggi are full-stack software developers that have spent the last twenty years collectively building custom web applications with an emphasis on custom data integration and consumer facing frontend design. Maurio Leon Guerrero is a UI/UX design that has led the product design teams of some of the hottest and successful start-ups in Silicon Valley, including Gladly, Zendesk, and Plumtree.
1PlanetSol has also established key partnerships with Austin Habitat for Humanity and The Texas Energy Poverty Research. Austin Habitat for Humanity is the largest provider of affordable homeownership opportunities for low-income families in Austin. They will assist in community engagement, and their families will be the beneficiaries of the solar program. The Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute is a non-profit research organization that provides actionable data to Texas based utilities to understand and address energy poverty in Texas. They will assist in evaluating the community impact of 1AustinSol.
Energy costs are a major burden on low-income families in Texas, which has the 6th highest poverty rate in the US with over 10 million people. These low-income families spend up to 30% of their income on home energy costs as compared with only 4% spent on average statewide. Austin, in particular, has the 5th highest energy cost inequality in the US. Unfortunately, even though solar prices have come down in recent years, the high upfront investment of solar have prevented these low-income families from taking advantage of the long-term economic benefits of solar to address their energy burden.
The 1AustinSol Community addresses these issues and dramatically expands access to solar and its impact in the community. The proceeds from the membership fee go to installing solar on homes built or repaired by Austin Habitat for Humanity, providing these low-income families free solar energy. A 4 to 5 kW system is installed on each home, saving the family $800-$1000 in electricity costs every year to spend on other family needs like education, food, or healthcare. Our 2018 goal is to install 100 kW of solar on 25 low-income Habitat homes and collectively saving the families $20,000 ever year in electricity costs
Furthermore, the program allows all Austinites who share 1PlanetSol’s social and environmental mission to participate in solar at a manageable cost ($49 per year) and can immediately benefit through store discounts. Solar is no longer restricted to well-off homeowners with south facing roofs, clear of shade.
Selection of this project by the City of Austin will be invaluable. It will provide validation of this novel approach to solar and help facilitate continued activities and engagement in Austin.
The prize money will help over the costs for the 1AustinSol app development and marketing program to launch the 1AustinSol Community. The cost for app development is minimal, requiring AWS clouding computing services and design and prototyping software Sketch and Invision. The remaining required software tools are open-source.
Majority of the prize money will be used for developing and implementing a consumer facing marketing campaign to launch 1AustinSol and drive initial member sign-ups. Marketing activities include developing video and digital content, advertising, and hosting a launch event at 1AustinSol’s first solar installed home.
And finally, any remaining funds will be used for beer and tacos for this all volunteer team.