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Software for getting the value from solar

Fat Spaniel and Natural Logic square off in the market for software that watches your energy-producing tools.

How do you know if your solar systems are paying off? You watch them.

Fat Spaniel Technologies unfurled Insight Manager at the Solar Power 2007 conference. The software console is essentially a grander and more ornate version of the tools the company currently sells that let users see and understand how well their solar systems on individual buildings are working. The software has been sold to consumers but also has been installed in a few Wal-Marts.

Insight Manager can monitor several sites at once and provide information on electrical capacity and other issues. It can also be programmed to send alerts. A lot of the data is color coded for better visual navigation. At last year's Solar Power conference, the company had just raised $7 million in funding and was still somewhat obscure. Since then, business has been growing and the company has become one of the regulars on the renewable energy conference circuit.

Fat Spaniel, however, isn't alone in this market. Natural Logic has also come up with a software panel for corporate users that monitors all of the energy-related activities of a company. The company has also begun to market its technology to municipalities.

These tools also bring a certain entertainment value to monitoring your energy. Both Chris Beekhuis of Fat Spaniel and Natural Logic CEO Gil Friend have likened their systems to video games.