Startup matches clean energy education with products, installers

By Bridget McCrea

At first glance, EnergySage appears to be yet another website looking to cash in on the growing alternative energy trend. The site provides consumer education about clean energy and offers advisory services to users that are befuddled by the complications of purchasing solar products and related items. The concept of using the web as an educational tool is hardly revolutionary, but dig a little deeper into this particular company and it’s clear that EnergySage’s model is well thought out and somewhat different than the average solar-oriented website.

Vikram Aggarwal, founder and CEO, says Cambridge, Mass.-based EnergySage was conceived in 2009 as a way to spread the word about the environmental and economic value of clean energy technologies. “We realized that there was a lack of education and awareness in this area,” says Aggarwal, who estimates that just 1% of the nation’s rooftops currently house solar panels and equipment, “so we set out to fill that void.”

Ramping Up the System

After running EnergySage as an information portal for four years, Aggarwal is taking the site to the next level by automating the solar purchase process for users. “We were analyzing quotes on behalf of the consumer and helping them make the best decisions,” says Aggarwal. “Now that process will be automated through our website.”

Last year, EnergySage received one of 10 U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Incubator investments aimed at reducing soft costs associated with solar energy installations. EnergySage is using its $500,000 investment to develop and implement a web-based solar photovoltaic (PV) comparison-shopping platform that will provide pricing transparency and facilitate open market interactions between property owners and solar PV installers.  

For example, consumers can use EnergySage to get bids from multiple installers, review the bids in comparable formats (for line-by-line comparisons), and look at solar energy system specs on successful projects. Most of the projects are either residential homes or “small commercial” (500 kilowatts or lower) buildings, which include churches, car dealerships, and retail establishments.

Defining the Distributor’s Role

Because EnergySage serves as a facilitator in the solar purchase process – and not a direct seller of equipment – the company is already working with multiple electrical distributors in the Boston area. “We see distributors as vital links in what we’re doing here,” says John Gingrich, vice president of corporate development. “The value that distributors provide in the sales of solar – including the possession of physical/local inventory and training for local installers – is tremendous.”

Gingrich says distributors also help platforms like EnergySage develop transparency and discussions around new technologies that the mass market doesn’t fully understand. On the flip side, he says the website can help connect electrical distributors with “warm” customer leads in their local areas. “A few distributors have already contracted with us to review some of the prospects in our system,” says Gingrich, “and connect their installers with those prospects. They see EnergySage as a way to drive more demand for the products that they’re selling.”

The Rising Tide

Currently available in beta format and by invitation only, the new EnergySage platform will make its public debut in late-February, according to Aggarwal, who says now is the perfect time to unveil the new solar energy resource.

“The stars are aligning in terms of interest in solar and the pricing of modules/installed systems,” says Aggarwal. “We’ve entered an era where it makes economic sense for a lot more people and entities to make an investment in clean energy solutions, and we’re on the cusp of that wave.”

McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at or visit her website at

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