Get Your Block Off: Solar group-purchasing program targets Eastern Pennsylvania.

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Story by Samantha Wittchen

One block off the grid may not be literally one block, or even technically off the grid—both are metaphors—but the program known acrostically as 1BOG is replacing an equivalent amount of power from traditional, dirty energy sources with renewable solar energy in the growing list of cities where it has rolled out its program. And Philadelphia recently got added to that list.

1BOG is a collective solar purchasing program that leverages the buying power of a group of people, as opposed to an individual, to negotiate preferential pricing for residential solar projects. Think of it as a sort of Groupon for solar installations, but with guarantees about the equipment and services it sells, and a free discount.  (No coupon purchase necessary—just sign up!)  In fact, the same venture capital firm that invested in Groupon, New Enterprise Associates, backs 1BOG.  

The 1BOG program addresses three of the biggest barriers to residential solar installation—the high cost, the confusion around the myriad solar options, and the difficulty in determining which solar installers to trust. Customers save money by having solar installed through 1BOG, and indeed, 1BOG has negotiated a 15 percent discount with its Philadelphia partners, Canadian Solar USA and Mercury Solar Systems.

Additionally, 1BOG vets its partners to make sure customers are getting the best value and then evaluates past installs to ensure that quality and service are up to snuff. “We did a lot of research before entering into this program, and nationally, everyone believes that 1BOG is the best partner you could have,” says Alan King, vice president of Canadian Solar USA.

1BOG’s main goal is to drive market penetration of solar, but it doestn’t just go wherever. The company carefully researches a potential market to confirm that electricity, pricing trends are favorable for rolling out its program. Philadelphia represents that kind of favorable market; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index for Philadelphia shows prices of utilities rose nearly

3 percent in just the first two months of 2011.

Homeowners can sign up to participate in the current 1BOG campaign at 1bog.org; the website itself is pretty slick. Enter your address and the website shows you an aerial view of your house on Google Maps. Select your roof, outline where you want to put solar panels, and the estimator tool gives you a detailed breakdown of your options, including a financial analysis of going solar. Once you sign up, 1BOG’s installer partner will get in touch with you to perform a more detailed evaluation of your home to give you a firm cost estimate.

Even better, the Philadelphia campaign isn’t limited to Philadelphia city residents. The coverage area includes the Lancaster and Reading regions, the Lehigh Valley, and north to the New York State border. Ready to stand up and be counted among the bogmen (as 1BOG calls their members)? The current Philadelphia campaign closes on June 21, so be sure to sign up soon if you want to be part of the solar revolution.

Samantha Wittchen is partner and co-founder of iSpring (ispringassociates.com), a sustainability firm serving companies and organizations in the Delaware and Lehigh valleys.