Solar power is something that people have been working towards for years. Clean, sustainable, and healthier for the environment; people from all walks of life have been looking for the sun to replace other fuels such as oil and gas. But for one man, Danny Kennedy, giving solar power is not only a good business decision, it is a passion based on a life of activism.
While working for Greenpeace in Papua New Guinea in the early 90s, Kennedy saw solar power at work. There was a small clinic there, equipped with some solar panels. The power output was not very large, but it was enough to run a refrigerator, which made it possible for the clinic to keep necessary vaccinations cold until they were ready for use. During this time he met another activist, Alec Guettel, who would become a friend and eventually a business partner.
The idea of solar energy would stay with Kennedy, but it would be some time before he acted on it. He left Greenpeace in 1995 to found his own human rights group, Project Underground. He worked with Project Underground until 2000, when he returned to Greenpeace — It would be during this second time working with the environmental agency that would change the course of his life.
In 2006, Kennedy attended the Solar Power International Conference in San Jose, California. He had been to similar conferences in other countries, but this was the first time he had heard passionate speeches and enthusiasm for solar energy coming from a conference in the U.S. It was inspiring and exciting for Kennedy, whose thoughts had begun to turn from purely activist, looking to combine his passion for helping the planet with the dream of becoming a successful business owner. He got together with his friend Alec Guettel and a former BP executive named Andrew Birch, and decided to come up with a new idea.
That idea was Sungevity, a small solar power company with some pretty big ideas. Priding themselves on being more simple to implement than other solar energy companies, Sungevity gives the option to lease their solar panels, instead of requiring a user to buy them outright. This saves on the initial cost, and allows consumers to begin to see the savings caused by the switch to solar power right away. Savings are also incurred through a referral program. The company also automates much of its process; for example, using Google Earth to look at the home that is interested in instillation, using the image to figure out how many solar panels will fit on the roof of the building, and generate an estimate based on that information.
The company is doing well, partnering with companies like Lowes and taking advantage of America’s desire to be more energy efficient, and Kennedy still remains passionate about what he does. Solar power, for him, has become a business, but it is still, at its core, about helping the Earth and helping people, the same things that have driven him his whole life.