The 2018 S3 Solar Software Summit brought developers, investors, installers and more solar stakeholders together to talk about how software can make life easier for everyone in the solar sector. Here are four things I learned.
1. The fastest-growing solar companies are focusing on speeding up processes
In order to work faster and smarter, solar companies are choosing multiple pieces of software that integrate well with each other to perform different tasks. Paul Grana, co-founder of Folsom Labs, said that both outside of the solar space and inside the niche, customers are choosing multiple vendors to achieve different goals instead of one that does it all. Peter Huh, CTO of Cypress Creek Renewables, said if a software company doesn’t have that API integration capability, CCR probably won’t use it.
2. Start-up solar software companies should keep prices steady
Installers want a consistent model when it comes to software pricing. Vivint Solar‘s CTO Mark Trout said that often, solar software start-ups charge a smaller amount for software the first year then hike the price by as much as 60% the next. Trout said Vivint often scraps the software when that happens, and said he’d appreciate more predictable and consistent solar software pricing.
3. All new software features need to solve specific business needs
Peter Huh of Cypress Creek Renewables said he’d love to get into virtual reality development, but CCR doesn’t have a specific business need that it would address at the time. Software improvements that solve specific business needs help companies both financially and culturally—for example, if a software solution can save an employee from staring at spreadsheets for an hour every day, turnover could be reduced. Similarly, Sighten CEO Conlan O’Leary said the company likes to get buy-in from different levels of employees at companies before implementing new features. He said he once had a client whose VP of sales approved a new feature, but the sales team hated it and wouldn’t use it. Now Sighten tries not to roll out tools that don’t relate directly to the business objectives.
4. Software can help installers focus more on the customers
Scott Taylor, vice president of business development for Sense, said that too often, he sees solar companies install solar and then forget about the customer afterward. Software solutions like those that offer better predictive and preventative maintenance can help nurture a positive customer relationship for years after the installation is completed. Eric Reinhardt, Sunrun‘s director of software product management, said it can take three to six months from the time when a homeowner starts researching solar to when it’s installed on their roof. Automating as many things as possible throughout that process can help ensure a closed deal and a happy customer.