Sungevity claims its improved software can generate an accurate residential solar installation quote and image based on just a street address and a customer's electric bill. The aim is to eliminate the time and cost of home visits in the design and pricing of residential solar installations.

The solar software company's new quoting platform combines "LIDAR, aerial imagery and real estate parcel data" to generate a 3-D image of a specific property along with "the three most optimal solar configurations," as well as installation costs and estimated savings.

Last month, Andrew Birch, Sungevity's CEO, told GTM, "The recent story in solar has been about finance," adding that a few years ago, "the story was about hardware and panels. Going ahead, it's about customer acquisition." GTM Research estimates that it costs almost $3,000 to acquire a residential solar customer in the U.S.

Lowe's, a long-time Sungevity partner, is piloting Sungevity's new quote platform at a number of its home improvement stores in California. The software can also be used to "rapidly assess the solar potential of entire cities, counties and countries for retailers, utilities and other partners," according to a release.

The company reports that the "Instant iQuote technology" already covers more than 1.5 million homes in California and will soon expand to four other states.

Sungevity's Chief Technology Officer Steve Atherton told GTM, "Right there in the store, we can make a compelling story." He said that it shortens the acquisition process and that "once customers understand, the light bulb goes off." The CTO spoke of "a really rich user experience" based on the enormous data collected and experience gained from thousands of solar rooftop designs. He added, "Nothing substitutes for what we've learned with real customers." 

The just-released Q2 2014 U.S. PV Leaderboard ranks the top five residential installers:

  • SolarCity
  • Vivint Solar
  • Sungevity
  • Verengo
  • Solar Universe

GTM solar analyst Nicole Litvak reports that these firms experienced significant year-over-year growth in Q1 and now command "huge referral potential from a large base of existing customers."

Atherton noted that analysis on store traffic showed that solar customers at Lowe's include those who have been studying solar on numerous visits to the store, as well as folks making a grout run.    

In April, Sungevity raised a $70 million funding round led by Jetstream Ventures, along with utility E.ON and GE Ventures. That funding adds to the more than $200 million in venture funding and project financing Sungevity has received from investors including Brightpath Capital Partners, Lowe's, Vision Ridge Partners, Oaklandimpact, Greener Capital, Firelake Capital, Craton Equity Partners and Eastern Sun Capital Partners.

According to a release, Sungevity's sales in the U.S. doubled in 2013. We recently reported that Sunrun and Sungevity had formed a partnership to enroll at least 10,000 new residential solar customers.

CEO Birch said that when a product becomes a cost-competitive commodity, "It's about brands, and how you sell to the customer, and providing an amazing customer experience."

Images of proposed PV installs on homes and in neighborhoods: