Q&A: Aurora Solar on how AI-powered software can reduce residential PV light costs

The use of AI-powered software can help reduce residential solar installation times. Image: Aurora Solar.

Despite a slowdown in U.S. solar PV deployment during the third quarter due to supply chain constraints – which are expected to last through the second half of 2023 – and supply bottlenecks, The residential market remained strong As consumers become increasingly interested in energy independence, retail energy prices increase.

PV Tech Premium He spoke with Chris Huber, Co-Founder and CEO at software provider Aurora Solar about the advantages of using AI-powered software to simplify the solar panel installation process for both homeowners and businesses, as well as what lies ahead for the residential sector in the US.

As supply chain constraints and other bottlenecks will persist through 2023, how can solar programs help reduce soft costs associated with installing solar panels to streamline the process?

Chris HopperSupply chain constraints and bottlenecks are challenges that almost every sector has had to face over the past few years. As a result, many industries have had to take a deep look at how they can be more efficient in order to balance the rising costs of materials and services. For both the residential and C&I sectors, our AI-powered software can help streamline the design, sale and delivery of solar installations in order to reduce simple costs driven by lengthy manual processes.

Installing solar systems without software can be a lengthy process. Driving to the site, measuring the roof, drawing shadows, and estimating savings has traditionally required a lot of manual labor. Our software changes this. Aurora’s advanced technology pulls this complex data into a single platform so teams can confidently interact with the customer, measure, model, sell, and deliver the system. All without visiting the site.

With solar PV installations in the United States expected to be lower in 2022 than in 2021, the residential sector appears to be booming. What can we expect in 2023 for residential solar, especially after California recently Your traffic is not 3.0?

The outlook for solar energy is very positive. According to Wood Mackenzie, the amount of cumulative solar installations across all market segments will nearly triple by 2027. There are a lot of initiatives that will continue to accelerate solar adoption. For example, when the IRA was passed, Wood Mackenzie increased its five-year forecast by 40%.

We expect the 2023 residential solar segment to remain strong. Many homeowners do not view solar power as a one-time system, but rather as a critical component of the complete electrification of their homes which includes solar power, storage, smart appliances, EV chargers and more.

This philosophy aligns with some of the directions NEM 3.0 will launch in California. NEM 3.0 is designed to promote the adoption of systems that combine solar energy with storage. As such, more solar installers in this market will need to start offering energy storage as part of their offering in order to offer systems that provide the best possible return on investment. However, before NEM 3.0 takes full effect, there will be a surge of interest in solar energy. Homeowners will rush to get installations online during the NEM 3.0 transition period, which is already in effect and ends April 13 so they can be included in the more advantageous NEM 2.0 pricing structure.

It’s not just legislation that is driving interest in residential solar power. Homeowners are attracted to solar energy because of the energy independence and reliability it provides. A good example of this is the February 2021 winter storms in Texas. After those storms, we saw a 33% spike in prices when looking at the week after the storm (February 21-27, 2021). Since then, demand has remained at this high level, although the Texas utility market is not regulated which can make it difficult to estimate bill savings.

What can we expect for the solar energy industry in the United States in 2023 and how can the application of artificial intelligence be beneficial for accelerating solar energy projects and reducing costs?

Artificial intelligence will help put more energy into the hands of homeowners to simulate if their home or property is a good candidate for solar energy and is able to generate the returns they need to be serious solar buyers. Having this “self-service” capability will lead to more qualified solar candidates which will simplify the adoption of residential systems.

Aurora has already started delivering this with its Lead Capture AI. This tool, which installers can offer homeowners, allows people interested in solar energy to create a 3D model of their home directly online. All the homeowner needs to do is enter their address and bill estimate. Aurora Solar’s artificial intelligence then simultaneously evaluates high-resolution aerial imagery and LIDAR data to create an accurate 3D model of the homeowner’s solar-equipped home. This process takes only 30 seconds. Homeowners receive quick answers about how much energy they can generate with solar power, while installers effortlessly receive new leads.

Installers who adopt this technology will streamline their operations and work with more qualified leads. This will allow installers to offer more competitive pricing for solar energy because they will be more efficient with their crews’ time. Ultimately, this is another way soft costs can be cut.

With IRAs expected to boost American industry in the coming years, how can software help? The next exponential growth Commercial solar power in the US as more companies (led by tech and retail giants) try to ramp up their power from renewables?

A key component to ensuring the seamless adoption of solar energy is having a comprehensive platform that can be used to streamline the solar installation process from rooftop panel mapping to installation. Our technology pulls data into a single view so solar professionals can interact with the customer, measure, model, sell, and deliver the system, all in the same platform—integrations even allow installers to offer financing options. We’ve worked with 90% of the top solar installers and they’ve noticed that the software allows them to grow their companies faster due to increased accuracy, speed, and customer experience. This is another way for software to accelerate solar adoption.

After raising over $200M in a Series D round in 2022 – and over $500M overall – as well as the acquisition of Folsom Labs to enter the C&I segment, what lies ahead for Aurora Solar?

First and foremost, our focus is to continue to improve our software to address as many pain points for solar installers as possible and allow them to deliver a seamless, easy and enjoyable experience for customers. This is critical to building on our mission to ‘Create a Solar Future for All’.

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