An architect who builds energy-saving houses. A nonprofit environmental organization that teaches Montgomery County public school students the importance of going green. And an entrepreneur who’s using technology to help homeowners figure out whether to go solar—and how much they can save if they do.
These are some of the winners of the third annual Bethesda Magazine Green Awards, held in partnership with Bethesda Green. They were chosen from among more than 80 nominees in Montgomery County and Upper Northwest Washington, D.C.
The seven winners represent different aspects of our community, but they have one thing in common: a commitment to promoting a more sustainable way of life.
Category: Businesses that have created an innovative green product, are selling an innovative green service and/or promoting a green lifestyle
Since the 1990s, Bethesda native David Levine has pursued a career on technology’s cutting edge. He has started three companies and worked for others that produced everything from computer games to computer modeling programs used by big oil and timber firms.
Troubled by the way those companies used computer algorithms to cut down more trees and extract additional oil, Levine envisioned more environmentally friendly uses for the technology. So in 2010 he created Geostellar with seed funding from family and friends. The Bethesda-based solar analytics company combines Levine’s interest in business with a connection to nature that began in his youth.
“I’ve always had a strong emotional draw to the natural world, and at the same time a natural attraction to the business model,” says Levine, 46, who has a sweat lodge in the backyard of his Shepherdstown, W.Va., home.
The former Boy Scout studied philosophy at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., before diving into computer technology, launching his first startup in 1992. He also was the front man for Senator Flux, an indie punk-pop band, and later immersed himself in Native American shamanism.
With his latest business technology venture, homeowners can find out how much it would cost to switch to solar power—and the potential savings in energy costs and carbon emissions—by typing their addresses into Geostellar’s website. Predictive algorithms consider factors such as shading, slope and orientation to determine the solar potential of a given rooftop.
The company also computes tax credits and other government incentives and matches property owners with businesses that install solar panels. For companies scouting for solar sites, Geostellar offers 3-D models of rooftops in urban areas.
“Once you write the algorithm, you can cover the whole country just as easily as one county,” Levine says.