US: Design-your-own PV picks up startup prize

SOLarchitect won the cash prize over 19 other New Orleans startups and Scott Oman, the company’s founder, said he was impressed with the competition. Oman was quoted in the Silicon Bayou News blog as saying: "We know what we are working on is a game-changer for our industry and it was great explaining what we do to such a huge number of people and get so much positive feedback."

The service allows users to view an image of their home – such as the Playboy Mansion in the image above – online and drag and drop solar panels onto the roof. The relevant tax credits and potential energy savings are then calculated. The final stage is that the site then collects three bids from contractors in the area who could install the system. SOLarchitect hopes to generate income from a commission on the installation cost.

Solar-industry professionals will first use the system but the plan is for a service for consumers to be developed and released later this year.

The tech and solar worlds have been coming together increasingly in the U.S., with silicon-valley based companies exploring innovative photovoltaic technologies and online startups finding ways to deliver solar more easily, to more people.

New Orleans is proving to be a solar hotspot of sorts, with post-cyclone-Katriona development often incorporating solar.