6 Cloud Software Platforms for the Solar Industry

Mar 23, 2017 by Kenzie Earle

In the digital age, companies are continually seeking innovative solutions to boost profits, increase systems efficiency, and achieve greater customer outreach. With heightened public awareness around renewable energy and stricter environmental regulations, solar energy is increasing both in value and demand. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association®, solar energy has experienced a compound annual growth rate of more than 60% in the last decade, largely due to the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). Today, nearly 209,000 Americans work in the solar industry, and that number is expected to increase to more than 360,000 workers by 2021.3

As a product and energy source, solar technology has become crucial – therefore the technologies that play a large role in the success of these companies are vital; there is also the component of niche necessity that software tools designed for construction companies do not satisfy. The following list compiles some of the best cloud software in the digital market for companies to streamline their business.

1. enACT Systems

With a database on solar products from more than 3,500 utilities in the US, enACT Systems offers cloud based software services conducive for mid to small solar installation businesses. Critical features include drag and drop rooftop layouts, consumer energy usage measurements, specific rebates, and funding evaluations of loans, cash and PACE financing. For example, sales professionals can use the web conferencing feature to build a complete proposal in front of customers in as fast as five minutes. Users can go back and forth between the design and savings screens until they arrive at an optimal energy production and savings plan. Signature boxes secure customers on the spot and installers can get started immediately.

In 2015, enACT Systems was recognized by the US Department of Energy as part of its SunShot Initiative, and was awarded two cooperative grants adding up to $1.64 million.

2. Energy Toolbase

A number of solar software programs including Sighten and MODSolar, integrate innovations like Energy Toolbase. The subscription based software platform analyzes complex utility rate structures, and provides solar developers with long- term financial outcomes. As explained by Adam Gerza, vice president of business development at Energy Toolbase,

“It’s a never-ending process. As utility rate tariffs get updated, we’re literally going to a page and transcribing those values into a database record.”

Energy Toolbase uses all the data it collects to generate two primary outputs: a utility rate analysis and an avoided cost analysis. The utility rate analysis generates a utility bill by examining the consumer's energy load and utility rate schedule. The avoided cost analysis calculates potential savings by taking into account solar power and energy storage systems.

3. PV Designer

Designed by Solmetric, the PV Designer software guides residential and small commercial solar installers to transform novice sales pitches into complete engineering proposals. Installers can benefit from features such as setting up roof outlines and region specifications, incorporating SunEye shade measurements, and calculating inverter limits and AC energy production. With a database of more than 10,000 modules with instant updates, the automated data management platform uses IV (current versus voltage) and PV (power versus voltage) curves.

The PVA 1000S PV Analyzer Kit is a 1000 volt IV curve tracer with built-in PV performance modeling and advanced wireless irradiance, temperature and tilt sensing. It can measure 1MW in less than 2 hours. The incident angle corrected SolSensor can make accurate irradiance readings even in lower light conditions, thus increasing efficiency in system performance.

4. SolarNexus

One of SolarNexus' distinctive attributes is that it allows contractors to develop proposals for solar thermal and energy efficiency upgrades in addition to solar electric systems. At Solar Power International (SPI) 2014, SolarNexus introduced a user interface that incorporates improved visual features such as the Google Maps based array layout via the SolarDesignTool. Installation contractors have great flexibility within the cloud platform, and can set up templates, custom milestones, utility tariffs, and dependency systems. Flexible pricing analysis includes a simple tabular reporting system and data export to spreadsheets.

SolarNexus also offers a streamlined system for contractors interested in receiving accreditation from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), an organization that works toward increasing consumer confidence in solar contractor portfolios.

5. EnergySage

The unique online platform allows consumers to request and compare installation quotes, and is currently the country's leading digital marketplace for solar. In comparison to quotes from individual installers, purchasing a solar energy system through EnergySage will save customers up to 20% on the total cost of their purchase. In addition, the software helps homeowners identify suitable financing options from various loans, leases, and power purchase agreements (PPAs). Vikram Aggarwal, CEO and founder of EnergySage, describes the solar software market.

"Until now, this fragmented industry was very difficult for consumers to navigate and for community solar providers to acquire customers in. As the leading online marketplace for solar, we saw a clear need to streamline the search process between buyers and sellers, just as we've done for rooftop solar."

Last year, EnergySage launched America's first Community Solar Marketplace, which has already attracted major community solar companies like Arcadia Power, BlueWave, SunShare, and Syncarpha. By aggregating and standardizing project information across 43 states and the District of Columbia, EnergySage has radically simplified how property owners and renters can locate, research and sign up for community solar.

6. PayStand

PayStand takes a unique approach to payments in the B2B realm. Most payment processors are looking to profit from fees they can tack onto each payment made. Due to our SaaS model, we are dedicated to offering an optimal ROI along with many other solutions that will positively affect your AR processes. In many cases, the start of a new project is impacted by how quickly the company is being paid for previous jobs. This scenario is even more prominent in the world of commercial solar. Don’t be caught waiting around for a paper check to arrive in the mail, don’t cut into your margins by paying your consumers transaction fees if they choose to remit payment via credit card – especially if they are paying on a monthly basis. PayStand offers efficiencies that can potentially increase capital down the line. Decrease DSOs, lower transaction cost, offer your vendors and customers every payment option as a convenience factor (ACH, Credit Card and eCheck), increase time to cash and have seamless reporting at your fingertips. 

Solar companies are cognizant of the overwhelming benefits of incorporating technology into their business strategies - . Entrepreneurs looking for a competitive edge are increasingly turning toward technological inventions that customize and enhance clean energy systems. As observed by Pamela Cargill, principal of Chaolysti,

"Recently, I moderated a panel called “Tools and Techniques to Get and Stay Competitive in Solar Installation” during CalSEIA’s contractor day program at Intersolar. In a room filled with about 60 solar installers, over 50 percent polled admitted to using five or more different software tools to develop proposals and manage projects. This sample crowd indicated that it was driving them crazy, too."

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