Apple has developed a reputation for sleek, hip and user-friendly computers and electronics. Now, Veranda Solar, a startup based in Portland, Ore. and Oakland, Calif., developing small, easy-to-install solar-power systems, says it wants to become the Apple of consumer solar products. (Updated to reflect that the company works out of both cities.)
How so? Instead of focusing on a new solar chemistry or production technology, the company hopes to differentiate itself with its aesthetics, appeal and ease of use, CEO Capra J’neva says. “We interact with real people to create our products, so we are reducing market risk by understanding the real needs of people who will buy [them],” she told us last week.
Founded in December, the startup is designing solar-power systems, made up of small (about 24-inch and 60- to 70-watt) panels with rounded corners, that onsumers can install themselves. Veranda’s systems, based on prototypes that were developed at Stanford University with SunPower Corp., will fold flat — making them easy to ship — and snap together. The systems will include the panels, inverter and everything else needed to deliver power into a home, and will be certified to plug right into a standard wall outlet, J’neva said. The idea is that customers will be able to install them with only a screwdriver, mounting them on roofs, windowsills, balconies or walls.
Veranda expects its systems, which include a panel, an inverter and cables, will start at $600 — or about $400 for just the panels, J’neva said. Veranda expects to sell systems at home-decor and home-improvement stores such as Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware and Home Depot, as well as through utilities, direct sales and solar-specialty businesses. The company forecasts it will net $140,355 in sales from 300 customers this year and turn a profit in 2011.