Intersolar was an absolute blast, with new technologies and a clearer path than ever to deep decarbonization. It never ceases to amaze and inspire when you see hundreds of innovators and entrepreneurs all putting their collective will toward a common goal. Here are top five takeaways from the convention.
Cells under glass with two wires; modules are all basically the same, right? Well at a fundamental level, yes. If you’re talking with a consumer who really only cares about the bottom line, the odds that they are going to recognize the name of any given module is close to zero (especially since LG exited). So why not give them the best value for nameplate capacity to cost? Well, every module comes with a story. REC* and Maxeon are vying for Cadillac status, Q-Cell* has the "Made in America" stamp, and JA Solar has volume and cost efficiency.
But Intersolar hammered home just how many options are sitting right under our noses. Belinus showcased their Belgian panels with a 35-year performance warranty, and Axitec showed that their German made panels can compete with the Q-Cell* G10+ on specs at a fraction of the price.
So where are the ripest areas for cost savings at a time when prices and rates are their near-term peaks? Modules are second only to inverters, where you could potentially halve the cost. But why not consider a lesser-known base module with solid specs for those concerned primarily with ROI, and then one of the premium modules as an upgrade for those want something more?
If you’re looking to get that base cost under $3/Watt, then you might want to pair a lesser-known module with a lesser-known inverter. After all, the consumer isn’t likely to know any given inverter brand any more than the module brand. AP Systems showcased it’s ability to provide higher cumulative AC output than Enphase* all while cutting the price in half. It’s hard to blanche at the prospect of a base-level inverter that reduces the chances of clipping, so you might find savings both on the front-end purchase and on actual performance itself.
Sol-Ark was possibly the star of the show with it’s all-in-one solution that allows for any generation input, from renewables to a natural gas generator, and any battery integrated with a smart transfer switch in the unit. Of course, moving to a string inverter means diversifying from the panel-level optimization monopoly and giving consumers a more in-depth explanation of the advantages of DC-coupling. But once you make the leap, the possibilities for more customization from storage to load control to overall cost savings on the system generally, start to expand significantly.
Battery options are proliferating faster than we can track. Franklin* was the biggest winner of Intersolar 2023, with its Powerwall clone that offers slightly more capacity at a much larger weight and footprint. Ipsun Solar installed a demonstration project recently and the team was enamored with the simplicity of install and commissioning. However, with Tesla sitting on a glut of product, they may start to offer discounts on Powerwall that give Franklin a run for its money. Seeing how these two options compete with one another over the next year will be fascinating to say the least, especially since a portion of consumers are refusing to buy anything attached to the Elon Musk brand.
If you haven’t checked out HomeGrid, you don’t know what you’re missing. It has the most elegant modular design of any battery we have seen. You can stack 4.8kWh batteries vertically all the way to the ceiling, and the aesthetic is on point. The only downside is that it only provides for DC-coupling on a limited number of inverters, meaning that you’ll need to comply with their somewhat limited menu at the time of this writing. If they ever expand into AC-coupling and a greater variety of DC-based string inverters, these guys are going to go very far, very fast.
In our opinion, Powerwall* is still the best AC-coupled option on the market, and especially when you consider the benefits of Powerwall+, such as bringing down the base cost of the solar-only portion with the Tesla inverter that pairs with 3:1 rapid shutdown units (3 modules for every RSD). But with lots of competition on the horizon, consumers and installers alike are going to have plenty to think about.
Everyone is still trying to figure out their damn tech stack. If you think you know the perfect solar tech stack, congratulations because you’re the only one. The permutations are seemingly infinite and the trade-offs are too many to contemplate. But here’s one thing we’re confident in: before you decide what CRM or ERP you’re going to have sitting at the foundation of your tech stack, you need to know how large you want to grow.
SolarNexus continues to display its dominance as the first solar-specific CRM that comes with unparalleled technical breadth. We’re not even going to get started on the number of proposal tools – because there are just too many to count. Coperniq is here to play ball, with a user interface that is stunning and a set of features that is seemingly end-to-end.
But having worked with many, many solar installers here at Sunvoy *, one thing is fairly clear. If you want to be a 9-figure solar installer running more than $100M in annual sales, you still need a software that is maximally flexible to accommodate a range of increasing programming and functional complexity that is unbound by the underlying architecture. Right now there are really only a few CRMs that provide that: Hubspot *, Netsuite *, and Salesforce. If you know that you definitely do not want to have a company that large (which would make you a sane person), then the solar-specific CRMs could be a fine choice. Take it from us: after seeing the CRM integrations of some of the largest solar installers in the country, the level of complexity is absolutely mind-boggling and increasing daily with their sales and revenue.
If you don’t have an R&D budget and GL account, start one today. At Ipsun Solar, we use and abuse our leadership team’s homes as our R&D playground, because in an industry that is constantly changing, anything short of that will ultimately result in stagnation and being uncompetitive. We have a biweekly New Products Meeting with our leadership team and technical leads, so that we can research what’s new on the market and where we should focus our testing efforts. 2023 is going to be a banner year for R&D, with no slowdown in sight. Did you know you have atax advantages doing R&D. Talk to your tax adviser about what classifies as R&D. For Ipsun Solar this is meaninful, we're not talking about pocket change here. Keep in mind that as an EPC you can get yourself in real trouble if you select the wrong product. Launching a new product usually has an impact on your marketing, sales, design, producrement and O&M. Make sure each department is aware of the new product (beofre you lauch :)
Fortunately, having Sunvoy as the core of our customer experience means that we also have a testing ground for operational automation, marketing, and service/maintenance.
We have added over 200 new features in the past 12 months alone with countless more on our roadmap and being published every day. We’re on a mission to make solar installers stronger and more profitable, by building their brand equity, turning their service divisions profitable, and reducing the cost of acquisition.
We run Ipsun Solar and Ipsun Sunvoy. We use some of these products and services mentioned on this page at Ipsun Solar. Obviously, we are more familiar with products we have used ourselves. We want to make a distinction between the products and services we know and others we have not used and rely like many of you on the manufacturer's marketing and what we hear from other EPCs. We want to make sure the products on this page are not formally endorsed by Sunvoy or Ipsun Solar at this point. We mark with an asterisks the products we know well and use at Ipsun Solar.
Were you at Intersolar 2023? If so, we’d love to hear your takeaways. If you have your own comments about what we said, if you agree or disagree with us, write your comments below.
We’re learning a lot and so will you.
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