$10 billion. That is the annual dollar amount of the potential roof top solar installations being proposed to customers by Clean Power Finance’s national network of 1,550 installers.
Coal vs. solar’s potential
Clean Power Finance is enabling this multi-billion dollar deal creation by providing small businesses like roofing or electrical contractors with the ability to offer their customers high quality solar power proposals including attractive pricing options. Clean Power Finance’s network of installers is extremely powerful and can even compete with coal power plants on volume. The DOE reports that over the 13 months of 2011 and January 2012 2,343 MWs of coal-fired power plants were installed. If all the proposed projects by the Clean Power Finance network of installers had been installed during this same time period it would be 2,600 MWs and we wouldn’t need the coal at all.
Solar price competitiveness
Consumers’ interest in solar power is being driven by solar’s increasing price competitiveness. Global competition, manufacturing economies of scale and technology innovations are driving solar panel prices toward grid price parity.
Reducing the time and expense of paperwork is key to driving down the installed cost of solar. In the United States, each city and utility has its own permitting and interconnection process, which is very cumbersome. Germany uses a national process with an application that is only one page long. These efficiencies mean the cost of installing a rooftop solar system go way down to approximately half the cost in the United States.
Clean Power Finance
Clean Power Finance has two services that are also enabling the price competitiveness of solar. One is software to help small business contractors make high quality customer proposals. Creating a rooftop solar proposal is a complex process. A quality solar proposal is the successful integration of typically complex local utility tariffs, local solar insolation data and local permitting rules into a specific cost effective recommendation for a particular roof application. For most small businesses like a roofing company or electrical contractor, this type of proposal is outside their core expertise. Clean Power Finance is similar to Salesforce.com, enabling these small businesses with software solutions that allow them to input basic customer location data to generate high quality proposals.
With its second service, Clean Power Finance takes this software system solution one step further by wrapping it with financing. Most customers don’t want to “pre-pay” 20 years of solar electricity in a single upfront payment for a solar power system. Customers want to buy solar power just like they are currently buying utility-supplied electricity through monthly payments tied to actual consumption. Clean Power Finance simplifies this very complex financing, enabling a small business contractor to offer monthly price payment options tied to actual consumption by the consumer. Further, Clean Power Finance removes the burden of the payment process from the shoulders of the contractor, providing customers with a monthly bill payment path and other operating services.
Natural gas vs. solar
Tellingly, 45 percent of the world’s electricity projects are renewables like solar power. The U.S. is in a natural gas price bubble that is generating lower price levels I haven’t seen since my involvement in cogeneration project development during the late 1990s. Competing against natural-gas-fired electric power plants is a pricing challenge for rooftop solar. However, the combination of the global solar economy plus U.S. innovations like those being implemented by Clean Power Finance are driving solar prices toward levels that in many states are competitive against utility retail prices.
Solar best practice
Clean Power Finance is experiencing a scale of growth that demonstrates solar power’s potential for creating jobs and contributing toward our economy’s growth. Their installer base has doubled by 100 percent over the last year. This interview with Kristian Hanelt, SVP Renewable Capital Markets for Clean Power Finance provides more insights into how they are generating customer growth and revenues for construction contractors in today’s economy:
Bill Roth is the founder of Earth 2017. His book The Secret Green Sauce profiles case studies of business best practices for making money going green. As the green business coach for the U.S Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation Green Builds Business program sponsored by Walmart, Bill has coached hundreds of business owners on projects that are growing profits, creating jobs and reducing their environmental footprint.
image: Arlington County via Flickr cc (some rights reserved)