Innovative Hardware that Reduces Solar Soft Costs
Fifteen years ago, about two-thirds the cost of a residential rooftop solar system was for equipment, or “hard” costs, and one-third went to everything else, or “soft” costs. Now it’s flipped – it’s two-thirds soft – and falls mostly into four buckets:
Installation company labor
Installation company overhead
Installation company profit
Installation company customer acquisition
15 years ago
Installers are the backbone of the industry and do phenomenal work, but there is a fixed cost component to their business model such that the cost to install 10 panels on a roof is not one-half the cost to install 20 panels but ranges between 65% to 90%. That means the installer has to price smaller jobs at higher $/Watt prices in order to get properly compensated.
Nothing wrong with pricing for your time and effort, but it creates an unfortunate outcome because it means that smaller systems will pay higher $/Watt prices than larger systems, and that gap widens as the systems get smaller. So, the families with the least amount of money to spend get quoted prices that are way above industry average and just don’t make economic sense.
That’s where we come in. We develop hardware that reduces soft costs by reducing the need for installers
Ground-Based Solar Panel Mounting System
One solution is a ground-based solar panel mounting system that anyone can assemble and call a licensed electrician to connect. It’s modular—one mounting system per panel—so it can be as small or as large as you need, ranging from a 2-3 kilowatt backyard system to a megawatt-scale community solar system. It uses water or sand as ballast and doesn’t require pilings, poured concrete or racking systems so it is suitable for environmentally sensitive areas where the topsoil cannot be disturbed.
The ground-based system is undergoing thermal testing at UCLA’s Smart Grid Energy Research Center and will be piloted in California as part of a community solar initiative.
Our other solution is a solar awning that attaches to the wall studs of single-story factory-built structures. The manufactured home industry accounts for nearly 10% of all new homes in the U.S. and they employ standardized building practices to comply with the HUD building code. Standard 2” x 2” roof trusses require a costly reinforcement to bear solar panel loads whereas 2” x 4” wall studs do not. Our approach is to provide the factory builders pre-assembled photovoltaic awnings that they just “click and connect” to the wall studs without requiring component assembly on their part.
The awning has been piloted at Clayton Homes, the largest manufactured homebuilder in the US. NREL is conducting an analysis of wind patterns during transport using computational fluid dynamics and NTA will conduct load testing for HUD Wind Zone III certification.