Originally posted on Solar Power World.
At a Stanford University solar conference focused on bringing together universities, industry, and the U.S. government, kWh Analytics Data Scientist Adam Shinn introduced upcoming industry-wide advances made possible through cross-sector collaborations.
“One of the biggest challenges facing our industry right now is the soft cost of solar,” said Shinn, pointing to a graph from the 2016 report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “The decreases in hardware costs over the years are represented in a significantly reduced cost of solar. Now soft costs—including installation, maintenance, overhead, and financing—comprise the majority of the total installed price of solar.” The problem of solar’s disproportionately high soft costs stems from an industry-wide problem: the absence of quality, standardized, aggregated data.
Enter Orange Button, a program of the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. Orange Button supports the creation and adoption of industry-led open data standards for seamless data exchange across the solar value chain. The Orange Button project is an ideal example of collaboration across multiple segments: government agencies, the private sector, non-profits, and industry consortia.
Orange Button awardees and DuraMAT Workshop presenters SunSpec Alliance, kWh Analytics, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are each contributing their particular strengths towards this shared goal of standardizing the way solar data is collected and exchanged.
SunSpec Alliance, a trade alliance of more than 100 solar and storage distributed energy industry participants, is taking the lead on formulating the data taxonomies. kWh Analytics, a solar data analytics company with the industry’s largest independent database on solar asset performance, is supporting the adoption of the data standards through development of a data format translation software tool. NREL, the only federal laboratory dedicated to renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development, is developing tools to establish a marketplace for standardized solar datasets.
Two major solar industry associations—the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Smart Electric Power Alliance—are also active Orange Button participants.
If the solar industry adopts a unified data standard, it would revolutionize the way solar is financed, reduce market inefficiencies, and lower soft costs and the overall cost of solar for consumers. As the industry matures and the problems become more complex, early examples of cross-sector collaboration will drive industry improvements and help establish the basis for future innovative partnerships.