If you use Kayak to hunt down the cheapest airfares, then it won’t be hard for you to grasp what EnergySage wants to bring to the solar PV market.

The company, which got a half-million bucks from the Obama administration through the SunShot Initiative, today unveiled an online marketplace that it says “will do for the solar industry what sites like Kayak, Travelocity and Expedia have done for the travel industry.”

image via Gary Watson/Wikimedia Commons

The basic outline is simple: You use the EnergySage interface to provide your home info – roof size and orientation, how much power you use and how much you pay for it, that kind of thing – and the service returns “apples to apples comparisons of solar power system quotes.”

EnergySage claims to have a “pre-screened network of high-quality solar installers and financing providers” to draw from for quotes, and it is promising “integrated ratings and reviews of products, manufacturers, installers and financing providers.”

Anything that enhances market transparency has the potential to help consumers find better prices and service – but there’s a way here that EnergySage could benefit companies who install solar, too. A significant aspect of installers’ costs is customer acquisition, and a Northeast PV designer and installer cited by EnergySage said he sees EnergySage making his life easier.

“Because the leads we receive from EnergySage are educated, ready-to-take-action consumers, the time period from the request for a quote to a decision will be significantly shorter, saving time and money in my sales process,” said Josh Ross, vice president at Ross Solar Group.

Squeezing cost out of the solar installation process is a chief goal of the SunShot Initiative. The U.S. Department of Energy was betting EnergySage could help in that regard when it included the company (officially called “Distributed Energy Research & Solutions”) among 10 companies to gain funding in its incubator program in June 2012.

The DOE has said that up to half the cost of a residential rooftop PV system can be eaten up by soft costs, which can include not just customer acquisition, but also financing and permitting.

EnergySage’s online “Wizard” can also direct folks to solar thermal, small wind and other clean energy technologies that might be appropriate for their property, but it’s clear that solar is where most of the action will be.

“We believe that the ease and transparency that the EnergySage Marketplace brings to the solar power shopping process is a significant step toward achieving our ultimate goal of clean energy at every home, business and non-profit,” Vikram Aggarwal, EnergySage CEO, said in a statement.