If you’re a solar pro and went to Solar Power International this year, you’ve probably heard about SEIA’s “The Solar+ Decade.” The campaign’s goal is for solar energy to reach 20% of U.S. generation by 2030 (from about 2% today). We love this campaign, and it’s one of the reasons we’ve just joined SEIA. This is the largest single opportunity in energy infrastructure in the next decade – over a trillion dollars in the US alone, or as I like to think of it, $2 Billion per week for ten years. However, when we mention to installers that Extensible Energy is a “Solar+” company, most assume that we’re a battery company instead of a software company, so we’d like to highlight that there’s a lot more to SEIA’s “+” than energy storage.
As SEIA points out in numerous places on its campaign site, press release, and accompanying report, energy storage is only a part of this initiative. Here’s one mention at the top of the Solar+ campaign page:
“To reach this target, the solar industry must work collaboratively and comprehensively with other technologies and industries to build a strong Solar+ economy.”
In fact, there’s a SEIA graphic embedded in the Solar+ Roadmap Report, which sums up all the “+” categories. Take a look:
While “solar + software” or even “software” is not mentioned explicitly in the above graphic or the roadmap report, that’s understandable. People take software for granted because it’s in everything these days. Here are several examples of how software integrates with some of the above Solar+ categories:
Solar + storage needs communications and control software to communicate with each other, the grid, and to manage loads.
Net metering and rate design affect the economics of solar + storage. For installers to meet the 20% goal, they’ll need numerous solar + software products for making proposals, designing systems economically, managing loads for demand charges and TOU, and much more.
Cost reduction is a broad term. Equally broad are the solar + software solutions that will contribute to reducing the hard and soft costs of installing solar. From O&M software that alerts asset owners to project management software that installers use to efficiently schedule and complete jobs, all will be a huge part of installation cost reductions over the next decade.
Energy efficiency is another broad term, and it’s a lot more than just LED lightbulbs, windows, and insulation. We touch this category with solar + software that enables load flexibility and reduces demand charges. Smart thermostats, demand response, and load shifting software are also related to this category.
Renewable collaboration really can’t happen without some kind of communication software. Likewise…
Grid modernization will, of course, rely on a smart, flexible, and reliable grid that is managed through software.
Resilience over the next decade will involve energy storage along with other distributed energy resources, which, once again, will all be managed by some kind of solar + software solution.
You get the idea. Solar + software is all around us in one form or another—and, by the way, more of us software companies should be SEIA members.
Aside from revealing software’s invisible but important participation in the Solar+ Decade, there’s one more point that I’d like to make:
The modern solar industry is no longer just a solar panel manufacturing and solar electrical installation industry. If we’re to meet and exceed SEIA’s 20% goal, solar contractors will increasingly need to learn about new kinds of software as much as new kinds of solar modules, inverters, and flashing. In a Solar+ industry, software will be as important to business success as and solar + energy storage.
So, the next time you hear about a “Solar+” company, I hope you’ll ask, “What part of Solar+?”