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Published on June 18th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan

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Clean Power Finance Gets $1.5 Million to Reduce “Soft Costs” of Going Solar



 
One of the several companies that received funding from the Department of Energy (DOE) as part of the SunShot Initiative last week is Clean Power Finance, an online marketplace for residential solar financing and a provider of solar sales software. The company was awarded two grants for “efforts to build software platforms that reduce the ‘soft costs’ of solar to make distributed solar more competitive with traditional grid power.”

Since I know that most of our readers are big fans of distributed energy (and especially distributed solar) systems, I figured you’d all be pretty happy to learn more about this big news. Also, as we have been noticing more and more, it is the soft costs of installing solar that are increasingly keeping the cost of going solar higher than it needs to be. The cost of going solar (per watt) is actually about twice as much in the US as it is in Germany. Germany, obviously, isn’t the sunniest country in the world, but it’s the top country in the world for installed solar power per capita. It has over 21 times more solar installed per capita than the US. That massive deployment of solar has driven down the cost of installations, and especially the soft costs.

Until we get to that level of solar saturation, innovative efforts to decrease soft costs is critical, so let’s take a look at what Clean power Finance is doing….

“The first grant, for $500,000, will help Clean Power Finance build an online marketplace for operations and maintenance (O&M) services on installed photovoltaic solar systems. The marketplace will allow interested residential solar system owners (particularly third-party financiers) to tap into a pool of service providers who can perform ongoing O&M operations on the systems. By enabling a variety of vendors to bid on repair and maintenance jobs for installed solar systems, the marketplace will ensure that price, quality and speed of O&M servicing remains competitive and accessible. Clean Power Finance and the DOE have agreed to a 12-month deadline for project completion. The total project cost is $1 million: Clean Power Finance will provide the remaining $500,000.”

Sounds good, eh? Basically, the companies offering solar services are going to have to compete against each other on a “solar services shelf” in a virtual store, making it easier for customers to compare and pick the most competitive options (and, thus, driving companies to offer their services for more competitive rates).

On to the second grant…

“The second grant, for $1MM, will help fund an online brokerage for solar companies. The goal of the project is to help interested solar installers access marketing and sales services from companies that specialize in finding end consumers in different geographical areas during different times of the year. Marketing and sales specialists are often limited by the installation capacity and geographical coverage of installation crews; installers are often limited by their sales and marketing capacity to generate project flows at the right time, in the right geographical area. This brokerage will help both sides efficiently connect with one another, focus on their core competencies and enable exchanges between them that will drive growth for both. The total project cost is $2.2MM, of which Clean Power Finance will invest $1.2MM. The DOE and Clean Power Finance have set a maximum timeline of 18 months for project development and roll-out.”

Really, this weak spot in the solar industry has been clear for years. It’s great to see Clean Power Finance filling this void, and it’s great to see the DOE providing funding for it and more companies in the solar soft costs sector.

For more on this and previous news from Clean Power Finance, check out: Clean Power Finance Recognized by SunShot Initiative for Projects to Make Distributed Solar More Competitive with Grid Power.

Image: solar installation via Shutterstock

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • Pondviewauto

    U guys are f*ckn idiots. This project is not going to bring costs down just like priceline nevr broight conventional flying prices down. This is just a waste of money. U cant build onto something without maintaining it. U guys are brainwashd idiots. Solar in germany is cheaper becuz they are further alog in their solar business cycle along with their crazy gov spending on solar. ur just all dumb techno freaks

    • Bob_Wallace

      Man, you should have stopped sniffing glue a long time ago….

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  • wattleberry

    This is a most welcome development-for the US at least-as it at last starts to prise open the somewhat opaque price issue. Up to now the industry has been based on a relatively low volume product sold predominantly to the more well-heeled who would be less concerned with the cost details than its investment value against the FIT. Incidentally, the relative wealth of Germany is almost certainly behind its growth rather than any unusual level of enlightenment!
    The sort of quote I have seen gives no analysis at all of the elements of the price, leaving the suspicion that unreasonable margins are included to ensure a ‘comfortable’ living without too much effort, hence the recent sudden fall in demand at the prospect of FIT cuts. Consumers are also now much more streetwise after seeing how rapidly prices plummet on all new tech. when it reaches the high street, a process which has accelerated even more during the ‘crisis’.
    We are all now impatient for the ‘volume’ phase but, for the moment, I suggest  that we demand a breakdown of any quotes and be prepared to move on if not forthcoming.

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