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