Earlier this week I participated in a solar energy hackathon here in Gothenburg, called SOLution. SOLution was organized by a group of influential companies and actors within the solar energy and innovation domain, hosted at the premises of Göteborg Energi. The setup was similar to many other hackathons, with a 24 hour deadline, where the teams were told to focus on the following three challenges:
- How can shared economies or micro markets be used within solar energy?
- How can we integrate solar cells in the society and the city environment?
- How can we use, share and visualize information about solar energy production?
In addition, to spur innovation, the teams had access to data provided by a company called Metry which consisted of production data from all kinds of energy systems around Gothenburg, among them a handful of solar systems. In total, 11 teams with groups of 3-4 people were formed, where some of the teams met for the first time at the hackathon while others had been working together for a longer period of time. Among the participants were programmers, architects, engineers and representatives from businesses active within the domain, e.g. installers of solar systems.
With regards to my own team, we are three friends who have been working part-time on an information portal called Solcellskollen for the past year or so. The main purpose of Solcellskollen is to lower the barriers for smaller actors and in particular household owners to invest in solar panels. Entering the hackathon, we had developed a module for estimating the economical potential for solar panels, based on e.g. geographical location, angle of the roof, etc. Based on the results from my friend and colleague Erik's master's thesis, there are more barriers than the economics that prevent smaller actors from investing. Among them is the absence of an easy and well-known channel to find installers that install systems that fit the individual needs of the customers, and this is exactly what we decided to focus on during the hackathon.
By developing a prototype of a marketplace where household owners and installers of solar systems can find each other, we aimed to provide good matchings using information from both parties. First, the resulting prototype consisted of a listing of all installers that match the needs of the customer (e.g. system size, location, etc), in combination with information about how many systems that have been installed through the site. Second, each installer has its own profile page where they have the opportunity to describe the company and their area of expertise in detail, and this is also where more detailed user reviews (think Airbnb) of system installations are listed. Finally, to strengthen the review with an actual system and to get a grip of how real systems (e.g. a neighbor's system) perform, we decided to insert production data from solar systems from the Metry API, linking a review to information about the total amount of energy produced by the system, installation date and system size.
For those of you who understand Swedish, all of the pitches from the event can be found here.
At last, even though many inspiring and creative solutions were presented, our solution actually managed to reach the top and we have been awarded a spot in the Climate-KIC Greenhouse programme! Cheers!