Can big data help build more wind and solar farms?

Rachael Post in The Guardian: “Convincing customers to switch to renewable energy is an uphill battle. But for a former political operative, finding business is as easy as mining a consumer behavior database…After his father died from cancer related to pollution from a coal-burning plant, Tom Matzzie, the former director of democratic activist group, decided that he’d had enough with traditional dirty energy. But when he installed solar panels on his home, he discovered that the complicated permitting and construction process made switching to renewable energy difficult and unwieldy. The solution, he concluded, was to use his online campaigning and big data skills – honed from his years of working in politics – to find the most likely customers for renewables and convince them to switch. Ethical Electric was born.
Matzzie’s company isn’t the first to sell renewable energy, but it might be the smartest. For the most part, convincing people to switch away from dirty energy is an unprofitable and work-intensive process, requiring electrical company representatives to approach thousands of randomly chosen customers. Ethical Electric, on the other hand, uses a highly-targeted, strategic method to identify its potential customers.
From finding votes to finding customers
Matzzie, who is now CEO of Ethical Electric, explained that the secret lies in his company’s use of big data, a resource that he and his partners mastered on the political front lines. In the last few presidential elections, big data fundamentally changed the way candidates – and their teams – approached voters. “We couldn’t rely on voter registration lists to make assumptions about who would be willing to vote in the next election,” Matzzie said. “What happened in politics is a real revolution in data.”…”