One Block Off the Grid

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One Block Off the Grid, or 1BOG, is a nationwide solar company that works with the largest solar providers in the nation to create a single online destination for homeowners who want to explore solar options. Originally, it was formed as an example of a social entrepreneurship model that promotes community development, social activism and personal responsibility. 1BOG currently operates in approximately fifteen US cities.[1]

One Block Off the Grid's name is a metaphor for freeing the world from its dependency on non-renewable power sources, one block at a time.

Business model[edit]

1BOG has a solution for the pain point the solar industry has experienced up to now in the residential market—large upfront costs make many homeowners reluctant or unable to manage the purchase. One executive told Venturebeat that outside of a few very tony neighborhoods in San Francisco, the company finds that about 80% of its customers need financing: “It’s that difference between paying about $10,000 and just a thousand up front,” he said.[2]

Originally, 1BOG used community organizing techniques such as house parties, canvassing, and volunteer recruitment in addition to social networking and traditional marketing techniques to obtain a critical mass of consumers in a given city who are interested in learning more about solar technology.[3]

When a homeowner first expressed an interest in solar, 1BOG would evaluate the roof to determine whether the option made sense for the homeowner. If solar was a good option for the particular house and the homeowner's electric bill was more than a certain amount, 1BOG would identified similar solar prospects in the area and group them together, leveraging that bargaining power with solar installers to establish a lower cost. As one customer said:

We wouldn't have done it otherwise...just that much additional money that I didn't quite have.[4]

Recently 1BOG has been a leading force in the move to solar leasing, a newer model which applies to solar technology a financing structure similar to an automobile lease. As many as 40% of solar customers now lease rather than purchase their solar equipment outright.[5]

Campaigns[edit]

1BOG’s Bay Area pilot campaign in 2008 organized 42 solar customers. Real Goods Solar won the bid for that project.[6] The second Bay Area campaign signed up over 1200 members. This time the chosen installer was SolarCity. "What really sealed it for us was their offer of free demand-side energy monitoring and a free home-energy audit to 1BOG participants," according to 1BOG general manager Dave Llorens. "The audit shows people where to find the best bang-for-the-buck on green home improvements, while the new monitoring technology empowers people to make continued and measurable improvements to their energy efficiency." [7]

In addition to the Bay Area, 1BOG currently has campaigns at various stages in Los Angeles, San Diego, New Orleans, Denver, Phoenix, Sacramento, Washington, Aspen, Austin, Bergen County (New Jersey), Boston, Brooklyn, Las Vegas, Miami, Portland and Seattle. 1BOG is currently working with a variety of solar providers, and plans to branch out into solar thermal installations and home energy conservation.

1BOG Logo – aka "Plugfoot"[edit]

The 1BOG logo has received significant attention and acclaim. Often referred to as “the Bogman”, the logo is the result of a crowdsourcing branding effort led by Sylvia Ventura in April 2008. The logo challenge resulted in over 150 submissions – the Bogman was the finalist and earned his designer an iPhone.

Key people[edit]

1BOG was founded in 2008 by Dave Llorens (CEO), Sylvia Ventura, and Dan Barahona.

In 2012, 1BOG was acquired by Pure Energies Group. Llorens remained on as a COO, overseeing the integration of the two companies, until February 2013. He currently acts as an advisor.

As of 2012, Pure Energies Group CEO, Zbigniew Barwicz, has taken on the role of president. Ousman Bah is the managing director and oversees daily operations.

Steve Newcomb was a noted member of 1BOG's board. He was also the chairman of Serious Business and the founder of SF Green, Powerset (now owned by Microsoft) and Loudfire (now owned by Nokia). Steve Newcomb sits on the policy committee of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

Blake Face, also known as Atilla the Sun or the Pancho Villa of Solar, frequently shatters sales records in the company. It was rumored that he once sold solar for 40 days and 40 nights.[8]

History[edit]

In early 2007, Ventura and Barahona spent three months researching solar power for their San Francisco home. They became expert in solar technologies, electric utility rates and metering, and local and federal tax incentives and rebates and found that many people were interested in residential solar technology, but few knew anything about it, nor where it was feasible. So Ventura and Barahona created advocacy and outreach website Solar4SF.org[9] in an effort to share their research and promote solar with for easy-to-understand information and evaluation criteria for Bay Area residents.

In March 2008 Barahona and Ventura imagined an entire city block in which every residence would go solar. The collective buying power of this relatively larger group of solar consumers would allow them to negotiate better pricing from installers. The goal of taking one city block off the grid led to their new venture’s name, One Block Off the Grid, soon shortened to the acronym 1BOG.

The difficulty of convincing every single homeowner in a city block to commit to a major purchase however made Ventura and Barahona focus on aggregates of a ‘virtual city block’ representing about 200 kilowatts. They met Llorens, a solar consultant and the co-founder of SolarPowerRocks.com,[10] a site that provides solar information for all fifty states. The three agreed to build 1BOG together.

1BOG officially launched on June 5, 2008, the day after San Francisco enacted the largest solar incentive in the city’s history. It was followed by numerous grassroot and social media efforts to educate and recruit San Francisco residents. Within one month 200 people had signed up on 1BOG’s website to receive an evaluation. The San Francisco pilot helped convert 42 homes to solar energy by negotiating a 48% reduction from list price, and generated over $800,000 in local solar installation sales.

The San Francisco Chronicle[11] documented the success of the campaign in an in-depth article on October 11, 2008. The press coverage drove another 400 new 1BOG members within two days and helped propel 1BOG forward on future campaigns. Over the following months 1BOG was featured prominently in Huffington Post, CNET, New York Times, TIME, Wall Street Journal, Wired, TreeHugger, and others.

By the end of October 1BOG had seeded campaigns in seven additional cities including New York, Seattle, Portland, Colorado, and San Jose and Oakland in the Bay Area. The company was acquired in November 2008 by San Francisco-based Virgance, a company that promotes large-scale social activism through market-based methods.[12]

In 2009 1BOG formed an alliance with SunRun to offer financing options aimed at lowering the upfront costs traditionally associated with solar installations.[13]

It was acquired in 2010 by Virgance, a for-profit Web 2.0 company with plans to use social media to make activism interesting and fun.[14] It remained however more active and widely known than its parent company.

It was bought in 2012 by Pure Energies Group, a closely held Toronto-based solar panel manufacturer that credited its ability to make the purchase to Ontario's 2009 Green Energy Act. Pure Energies vice president Chris Stern would not give a price for the acquisition but said he expected the new enterprise to be making $50 million by the end of 2012.[15]

References[edit]

External links[edit]