Wiser Capital Blog

July 24, 2014 | No comments yet

Computing Power is Transforming the Solar Industry

Technology and information are so integrated into our everyday lives; it’s sometimes difficult to remember what life was like without them. Before smart phones and personal computers, something as simple as going out to eat required that you look up the restaurant in the phone book, make a phone call to book a reservation, and pull out a map to find directions. Now you can easily find a restaurant with your phone with Yelp, book your table instantly through applications like Open Table, and simply pull up turn-to-turn directions on how to get there.

In just a few decades, technology has also completely transformed how businesses operate. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2008 Global Information Technology Report, instead of the larger, vertical business structures, which dominated the past, we are now seeing a decentralization of tasks and more opportunities for horizontal integration within industries. With the creation of ever-increasing computing power and relational databases, processes can now be completed all over the globe, with data and technology driving that integration on a worldwide scale. Having worked as an information technology consultant for a handful of international Fortune 500 companies, I have witnessed firsthand how companies leverage software solutions to make their business run more efficiently and lower transaction costs. Both domestically and internationally, the exchange of information between multiple organizations has never been easier and can be done almost instantly from anywhere in the world.

Over the last few years, the residential solar industry has begun to embrace technology to simplify the process of going solar for homeowners. By putting more control in the consumer’s hands, decreasing the sales cycle through high-powered mapping tools, and broadening the availability of financing, an increasing number of homeowners are seeing solar make economic sense for them. They might not have Siri telling them step-by-step directions, but they’ve tossed the phone book.

In contrast, the commercial solar industry has been lagging behind these residential leaders. It’s not for a lack of trying, but the efficiencies that can be attributed to residential solar arrays often do not apply to commercial solar. Design and engineering are complicated by limited roof space and complex systems. Layers of decision-making can bog down the sales cycle. Accounts for operations are separate from accounts for capital expenditures. Together, these complexities mean that few small- and medium-scale commercial businesses are able to take advantage of solar.

Luckily, several pioneering companies are beginning to change the landscape so that commercial solar can become as automated as everything else in our lives. HelioScope, out of Folsom Labs, and Simuwatt a project of Concept 3D and NREL, are creating tools that simplify and streamline solar design and production modeling. With these tools, users can better understand the amount of solar that could potentially fit on a site’s roof and the amount of electricity it is expected to produce.

Wiser Capital, a financing firm, has built a cloud-based platform so that anyone can assess the bankability of a commercial solar project quickly and efficiently. By entering one full year of historical utility information and some basic site information, the platform automatically derives the optimal installation size, financial data, applies tax incentives applicable by location, assesses attractiveness to financiers, and forecasts future utility payments and potential savings. Wiser Capital also provides the legal documentation and offers options for financing.

By combining information technology and innovative financing to overcome the current obstacles faced by the solar industry today, Wiser Capital seeks to accelerate the medium-scale commercial solar market. Doing so will allow solar installers to trim costs and help drive down the price of solar so that everyone can have access to clean, affordable electricity.

Interested in finding out more? Check out Wiser Capital’s website.

Kathy Tejano interned at Wiser Capital and is a graduate student at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UC Santa Barbara. She earned her BS in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia and worked for five years as an information technology consultant. Specializing in climate and energy issues, Kathy is deeply interested in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and corporate environmental management.

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