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Solar firm taps social-media expert to spur a 'rooftop revolution'

Patrick Crane was impressed by his solar roof. Now the former LinkedIn executive expects solar power to become a 'social phenomenon.'

By Maria GallucciSolveClimate News / August 26, 2011

Patrick Crane is chief marketing officer for Sungevity. His company is using social media to tout the relative ease with which homeowners can now install solar power – thanks largely to affordable leasing plans.

Courtesy of SolveClimate News

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Social media expert Patrick Crane had just stepped down for a "career break" after four years with networking giant LinkedIn when Sungevity came knocking late last year with a job offer.

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Still far from decided but intrigued, Mr. Crane agreed to sign up with the Oakland, Calif.-based solar leasing firm – but just as a customer.

He filled out a free online Sungevity iQuote, punching in his roof specifics, electricity usage, and other household details. In less than 24 hours, the company calculated the roof's pitch and orientation to the sun and emailed Crane a design of his solar array without ever stepping foot in his San Francisco Bay Area home.

The quote tallied how much money the panels would save on electricity bills. And it stated that, at no cost to Crane, he could lease an installation from Sungevity, skipping out on tens of thousands of dollars in upfront costs.

Looking over the proposal led to an "aha" moment for Crane.

Going solar seemed like a transformative choice, he told SolveClimate News in an interview, and he wanted to talk about it far and wide. For a social networking guy, that was huge.

"I felt in my bones that solar is a social phenomenon," Crane said. "What I saw very quickly through my own experience was that families are making a very big emotional decision.

"Solar is not a bunch of black panels on a roof," he continued. "Solar is a lifestyle."

That was in January. One month later Crane signed on to be Sungevity's chief marketing officer, and in that same week in February his real-life rooftop array was first connected to the grid.

"Being that wowed ... by the customer experience was the impetus to say, 'This is what I want to do with my life for the next few years,' " Crane said.

He said he hopes to bring to Sungevity and the fledgling solar industry the same skills he brought to one of the biggest social networks in the world. (Paragraph includes correction added on 08/10/2011)

LinkedIn's membership rose by 700 percent in recent years to more than 120 million users in 200-plus countries and territories. The goal of Crane's new position is to connect residential solar users – online and off – to generate buzz and new buyers for installations nationwide.

A 'rooftop revolution'

As a first step Crane is heading up Sungevity's aggressive marketing campaign, dubbed the "Rooftop Revolution," which aims to position the firm as the top residential solar provider in the nation.

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