PVComplete Web Interface and Automatic Roof Layout
Problem Statement: Hardware costs have essentially bottomed out while soft costs remain sky-high in the US solar market. “Days to install” is defined as number of days from the time customer contract is signed to installation completion. the average ‘days to install’ in California for the top five residential solar installers is 128 days, Based on PV Solar Report 2014 Monthly California Residential Install Report, March Close, . It typically takes just one day to install the solar panels on a roof which means the remaining 127 days are spent in getting the project ready for installation. The major operations milestones during this period are site assessment, underwriting, design, and permitting. The costs associated with these milestones are categorized as indirect costs in the profit and loss statement. The longer the projects stay in the operations queue, the higher the indirect costs are. While several software solutions have been proposed to address soft costs by speeding up the design process, none are able to do both simple web based proposals as well as generate final engineering design and permit drawing packages using one software platform.
Solution: PVComplete is a solar software startup offering a comprehensive solar project design tool built to automate the most time consuming tasks. The software tool is designed to completely automate module layout utilizing a cloud based PV module database while observing roof zones and obstructions with sophisticated shadow models. PVComplete streamlines the electrical design by assigning modules to strings and determining wiring requirements. The tool saves significant design time amounting to thousands of dollars savings, reduces design errors and speeds up the time to installation. Our tool builds upon an AutoCAD platform which is the industry workhorse for professional commercial PV designers. (www.pvcomplete.com)
Our solution is to build onto our existing layout and design tool a web based front end for the PVComplete software that allows a sales person with with no CAD skills to quickly generate initial proposal designs that are then imported automatically into PVComplete, from where a design professional can use the software to quickly generate a final design and permit package.
This web based front end will analyze Google Earth/Bing/Pictometry or NASA 3D images to determine roof size, slope and azimuth automatically. The user can quickly generate an initial proposal with the number of modules that will fit on the roof, estimate kWh output based on local weather data using the SAM .api and generate a rough cost estimate. If the user has access to usage and rates, ideally “green button” data, the software does calculations to determine simple payback and net present value. With this automatically generated proposal in hand, the owner of the building can arrive at a go/no go decision on whether to proceed with the solar project. Critically, once this decision is reached, all the information from the proposal is seamlessly exported into the PVComplete software where a skilled designer can quickly push it through to final design using the CAD automation features already available in PVComplete.
The Team: PVComplete was founded by a team of solar industry veterans with extensive previous experience developing software for the solar industry:
Alexander “Sasha” Frumkin is the software architect and lead developer. Sasha began his career at AutoDesk developing software for the inner workings of AutoCAD. From there Alexander moved to SunPower, where he was the lead developer building PVFast and PVSim, SunPower’s proprietary AutoCAD based software for solar design and performance modelling respectively. After his experience at SunPower Alexander worked for two years at SunLink where he created SunLink Design Studio, another AutoCAD based custom software for automating the design of solar arrays using SunLink solar module mounting systems.
Micheal Zaydman is the software test and quality expert. His role is to ensure that the software runs smoothly without any bugs and that it never crashes. He is exceedingly talented in this role. Micheal has worked with Sasha since the AutoDesk days and has followed him to SunPower and SunLink. The two use complementary skill sets to work as a powerful software development team.
Daniel Sherwood is the chief electrical engineer and product manager. Daniel is professional electrical engineer who has designed # of MW of solar since his start in 2002 at Powerlight. Daniel has worked with solar project design and products at SunPower and SunLink. Daniel has also has prior experience founding a successful startup as featured in the Wall Street Journal: (http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB123059301640740831)
Wes Brown is in charge of sales strategies. Wes has founded successful startup businesses before moving to the renewable energy industry working for Grid Alternatives, STEM and Sungevity.
Claudia Eyzaguirre works on marketing and operations. . Claudia understands solar markets and their drivers from her years of experience is shaping solar policy at Vote Solar and the Center for Sustainable Energy.
Customer Segment: The PVComplete software right now is targeted only at designers in the solar industry who use CAD software. By adding this web front end functionality, the target market will grow to include sales professionals in the solar industry who generate proposals for their prospective customers without going through a full engineering design, which typically is not done until a project sale as closed.
Channel: The software will be easily downloadable from the PVComplete website. We will also work with solar distributors who distribute solar equipment to also sell our software to their existing customer base. Finally, the founders of PVComplete are all solar industry veterans with extensive contacts in the industry that will enable us to have good success doing direct sales through our contacts.
Competition: There are several competitors who offer software for web based solar proposals. These include: HelioScope, Concept3D, Aurora, SolarDesignTool and others. There is also one competitor with an AutoCAD based software for doing complete engineering designs: Helios3D. None of these competitors offer an end-to-end solution that eliminates the redundant solar project design i.e. a simple web front end coupled with a CAD based tool for final design and permitting. Also, the only CAD based competitor has a very expensive offering, that require Civil3D on top of AutoCAD and it is owned by a single racking manufacturer, which limits its appeal to the general market. Our software is relatively affordable, we plan to offer a basic license for $100/month and a professional license with extra features for $300/month. Our team has 25+ years of collective solar industry experience and two founders with extensive previous experience developing software for the solar industry-- this is our primary competitive advantage.
Value: Our software creates quantifiable value for our customers by significantly reducing the soft costs of solar project design. Engineering time is costly and using our software reduces design errors which can be even more costly. Also, by allowing designs to be completed quickly and submitted for permit, we reduce the ‘days to install’ in the original problem statement.
Revenue Streams: We have two primary and one secondary revenue stream for PVComplete. The first is licensing fees, which we collect on a monthly basis using a software as a service subscription model. The second revenue stream is software customizations. We offer custom additions to our software for corporate clients. Examples of customizations include adding a specific manufacturer’s mounting system into our software or creating an interface between our software and our client’s ERP system. A minor revenue stream for PVComplete is offering classes in how to design solar projects using PVComplete. While this does not generate significant income it is an important marketing tool.
Cost Structure: The main cost for our company is salary for software developers, sales, marketing and administration. We produce no physical goods and work out of a virtual office. This allows us to keep our costs low.