If you want to build a solar farm, you just need to find some vacant lot, figure out which way is south, and start installing solar panels, right? Actually, things are a lot more complex than that. Each site for large scale solar deployment can have millions of possible designs. Connections to the existing utility grid can cost much more in some locations than in others. Permitting costs can be higher in one location than another and sun exposure can vary considerably even in areas that are close to each other.
The cost of solar panels themselves have fallen dramatically over the past few years, but development costs can still add millions to the total needed to complete a large scale solar project. Each year, millions of hours are invested by engineers and estimators involved in planning new solar developments.
HST Solar has a web platform whose proprietary software can scan through hundreds of millions of possible designs for any potential site in a matters of hours, if not minutes. The objective is to identify which designs will yield the highest investor return and the lowest cost of solar electricity.
HST Solar’s software can identify designs that most engineers working manually often overlook. Its analysis can make projects more profitable and help attract investor capital. In emerging and developing markets, HST Solar can make sure that private and government investments in solar power are maximized.
Using tools such as the HST Solar platform will help the solar industry scale up from the 70 gigawatts of new installed solar every year at present to the 1,000 gigawatt level the world will need each year by 2030 in order to address climate change in a meaningful way.
HST Solar was founded by Harvard Business School graduate Santanov Chaudhuri specifically to create optimal solar system designs using the power of advanced computer software. The goal is to make solar viable even if government subsidies are withdrawn. HST Solar does away with much of the site analysis that is currently done manually.
“We thought this manual process was not only inefficient and time-consuming but it also added risk to the overall project implementation. To find out if a project is feasible or not, you have to wait a long time for initial system design, quotes from PV panel manufactures, electrical engineering, and structural engineering proposals to get the total cost of the project to [find out] whether it’s viable or not,” Chaudhuri says.
With the integrated HST Solar software approach, Chaudhuri says “once you put in basic input parameters, customize appropriate assumptions, and choose an optimization goal, we are able to optimize and design the system in a matter of minutes.” Other companies like SunPower are using drones to gather the needed data more quickly and efficiently.
The future of solar depends not on further reductions in solar panel prices but in substantial reductions in the cost of selecting and designing a solar installation site. That’s where the HST Solar solution will pay maximum dividends.