First Solar Software Summit in Arizona: how software can cut 40% of solar soft costs

For the first time, GTM organized a one-day summit exclusively dedicated to solar software. This event gathered more than 250 solar professionals and featured software demos from Folsom Labs, Neurio technology, Wiser Capital, Eagleview technologies and Enact Systems.

According to GTM research, solar software will cut solar soft costs by 40% by 2020, helping in all the aspects of the solar sales process: customer identification, customer engagement, system design, after sales, and asset management.

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Figure 1: Source GTM research

Today, what are the hottest topics in solar software?

Paul Grana, Sales &Marketing manager at Folsom Labs and Conlan O’Leary, CEO of Sighten gave their answer, that we can summarize in 4 key points:

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Figure 2: Soucre: GTM research

What is the most attractive opportunity for solar software today and what are the missing pieces?

According to Conlan and Paul, solar financing is still too complicated today and lacks standards. Solar software could greatly simplify this process by standardizing and automating how solar is financed. With various financing mechanisms and lots of financing companies, solar financing is certainly a complicated piece of the solar process.

However, Jake Saper, investor at Emergence Capital doesn’t think that this is the next big thing for solar software. From an investment perspective, the next big piece of software should enable more revenue rather than reduce costs. So if you want to create a $1Bn solar software company, Jake has one advice: tackle the solar sales process as early as possible and bring more and better customers in the fennel!

Is the problem of “Solar Soft Costs” a US specific problem?

The response is clear: NO! The solar soft cost problem, and therefore the need for solar software, is common to all the countries where the market is growing and needs to scale. Very clearly, one priority for the big players Solarcity, Sunrun, Sungevty, etc is to grow their activity internationally.  If the US market becomes stagnant, other countries could become a huge source of customers: Turkey, Mexico and India are particularly watched by US solar developers. Today, Folsom Labs is already used to install panels in Mexico.

Should solar software be point-based solutions, or should it be a full suite of solutions and address the entire sales process?

Both Folsom Labs and Sighten aim at automating the solar sales process and cover all the aspects from customer management to finance. But this is not an attractive solution for all the solar players. The top 10 solar companies have been developing their own software for the past 5 years. Solarcity is building every piece internally while others seem a little more open to buy software, but at the very condition that integration into their IT should be simple! On the contrary, small contractors don’t have resources to hire software engineers and are looking for one single software solution to use. If only smaller companies buy software, how big is the market?

What is the market for solar software?

is the market big enough all these companies? The two competitors Sighten and Folsom Lab don’t have a clear answer to that… Sighten recently raised $3.5 M and Folsom Lab raised $1 M.  As long as all these companies are growing, the solar software landscape is likely to become more and more diverse.  But in the long term, we’ll start seeing winners and loosers. According to Conlan O’Leary, CEO of Sighten, there is no reason why a solar software company couldn’t conduct an IPO… however, the only condition is that this company controls and owns almost all of the market. The Battle for First Place in the Solar Software Race has started!