#HeroesofFreeingEnergy: Andrew “Birchy” Birch

“I was born in the Highlands of Scotland, and I didn’t see the sun for four months after my February birthday.  Not the ideal start to a solar career!  But I always loved the environment and later, I was sitting in an investment bank wondering what my life purpose was, when I discovered what solar was going to do to the energy industry, and saw the math.  That was 20 years ago and we were installing 500,000 solar panels a year.  Now we install 500 million!  The next challenge is to get to 5 billion – and for that we need millions of new solar jobs and some great software.

“Over one in five homes in Australia have a solar system today. If you go solar in Australia, you get your system within one to three weeks. In the States, it can take two to three months on average to get that system and costs over twice as much. That is not the physics of a photovoltaic cell. That is a function of the market construct in permitting.

We need a coordinated national standard process to solve permitting…so we started a non-profit and built SolarAPP+, software that digitizes the whole process.  Now we’re rolling that out across the cities and states.  The other challenge is helping thousands of small businesses become big with sales software.

The vision is automation where you can paint panels in 3D software to design the solution, click a button for the permit and go install – simple and super low cost.  That’s what OpenSolar is all about, totally free software, with users now in over 120 countries.  

“It’s the power of the people, right? With low-cost solar, efficient processes, great software, and a ton of great people, we can basically deliver it ourselves.”

Andrew “Birchy” Birch, Co-Founder of OpenSolar in Sydney, Australia, is one of the 320 people that author Bill Nussey interviewed for his new book, “Freeing Energy: How innovators are using local-scale solar and batteries to disrupt the global energy industry from the outside in.”

Available today

Learn more about Birchy from his Freeing Energy podcast with Bill Nussey.

You can see all the heroes (so far) and their stories here.

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