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What We Do and Why It Matters

Data Analytics + Financial Innovation → Lower Cost of Solar

If you’re new to solar finance, our products can be a little difficult to understand. This company overview is designed to help you understand the solar industry, the problems within it, kWh Analytics’ solutions, and why this all matters.

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introduction to solar

The kWh Analytics team is mission-driven, and every member of our team is passionate about advancing the solar industry as part of a larger movement to fight climate change. The solar industry is experiencing very healthy expansion, and we're excited to facilitate the continued growth of solar.


With the help of the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), solar energy is growing quickly both domestically and internationally. Although the ITC kickstarted solar development, solar is now economically viable, thanks in part to lower production costs.

As solar grows, so does the demand for and profitability of new, more efficient solar technology. New research and higher demand have driven down the price of going solar, which has further expedited adoption of solar power.

Solar is widely accepted, and not just in the sunniest states. As prices fall, legislators are warming up to policies that let in solar developers. Solar is worldwide: Japan, Europe, and China are all leaders in solar energy and show no signs of slowing down.

Photovoltaic Basics

Sunlight is the most abundant energy source on earth and solar panels convert it directly into electricity with no moving parts.

• All solar panels use semiconductors to collect the energy from individual photons hitting them.

• If you’ve seen a solar panel, that solar panel was made of photovoltaic (PV) cells which convert light into energy.

• The most common semiconductor material used is silicon, but there are various technologies and other material types all with their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

Types of solar projects:

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Utility-Scale

Capacity: >5-10 MW

A large solar project that feeds energy to the grid, selling it to utility companies.

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~65% of the U.S. solar market

Utility-scale solar in the U.S. generates roughly 43.5 GW (43,500 MW), enough electricity to power about 8.3 million homes

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The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports that there are another 74 GW of large-scale solar developments in progress, enough to power roughly 14 million homes →

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Residential Solar

Capacity: 6 KW

The kind you’re probably used to seeing. Homeowners use a number of financing methods to obtain a solar system on their roof that produces enough energy to at least partially offset the energy the home needs to get from the grid.

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~18% of the U.S. Solar market

Residential solar in the U.S. generates roughly 12 GW (12,000 MW), enough electricity to power about 2.3 million homes

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A household rooftop solar panel system can reduce pollution by 100 tons of carbon dioxide in its lifetime—and this includes the energy it took to manufacture the solar panels. →

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Commercial & Industrial Solar

Capacity: 50 kW-1 MW

On-site solar project producing energy for commercial or industrial entities (not electric utilities or residential customers).

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~15% of the U.S.solar market

Commercial and Industrial solar in the U.S. generates roughly 10 GW (10,000 MW), enough electricity to power about 2 million homes

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As of August 2019, Target owns the largest amount of on-site solar, with 229.7 MW of solar on various Target roofs. Walmart comes in second with 152.1 MW installed. →

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Community Solar

capacity: <5-10 MW

Members of a community opt into a program that allows them to buy energy from a larger solar project that isn’t on their roof. Residents pool their resources to own solar instead of buying their own system. Community Solar allows people to participate in solar who could otherwise could not, like those who don’t own the homes they live in.

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~2% of the U.S. Solar MArket

Community solar in the U.S. generates roughly 1.4 GW (1,400 MW), enough electricity to power about 254,000 homes

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The Coyote Ridge Community Solar Farm in Fort Collins, Colorado will be the largest low-income community solar project in the U.S. at 1.95 MW. →

kWh Analytics has worked with data from and structured our Solar Revenue Put on all these types of solar projects.

What can affect solar production?

Many things can affect solar production, but these are the most well-known:

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Weather

Factors like sunlight, clouds, snow, and excessive heat can all affect performance. Weather is often inaccurately measured/factored into forecasting.

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Solar panels don’t necessarily work best where they catch the most sun! Hot weather can reduce efficiency, and solar panels prove effective even in places like Seattle. →

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Inverter

Inverters turn DC output into AC output that can be fed into the grid. Inverters aren’t 100% efficient, so it’s important to measure how well inverters are converting power.

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PV Evolution Labs (PVEL) described solar inverters as the hardest-working component of a solar array. →

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Equipment damage

Solar equipment can be damaged before, during, and/or after installation. Proper operations and maintenance management is important.

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Solar panels are built to produce energy for 25 years or longer, so companies must account for long-term degradation, component failures, etc. →

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Tilt

Are the solar panels catching as much sunlight as possible? The orientation of a solar panel affects the production, and is defined by both the tilt (horizontal->vertical) and azimuth (N, S, E, W) of the panel.

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Some commercial solar projects use tracking systems that change the tilt of the panel as the sun moves across the sky. →

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environment

Materials covering panels (like dirt) and growing under and around panels (like vegetation) can affect performance.

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Some solar developers are using sheep to control grass around panels. →

kWh Analytics’ industry-leading database gives our experienced data scientists a unique advantage when predicting solar production. Our engineering team is a pioneering force for solar, utilizing all possible data sources to improve solar production forecasting.

Read kWh Analytics’ Solar Risk Assessment →

Who pays for a solar project?

Investors buy into projects sponsored by different developers, and in return will receive a share of profits when energy produced by those solar projects is sold. Investors receive energy production reports from each developer in their portfolio separately, making it difficult and time-consuming for banks to track and benchmark performance of their entire portfolio.

The Problem

The solar industry is growing fast, but supporting technologies and financial practices for this new asset class aren’t keeping up. Although the costs of solar panels are falling, soft costs, like the cost to secure the capital needed to build a solar project, aren’t doing the same. Investors offer less capital to fund solar because of a high performance risk. Read More ➞

 

Our Solutions

 

Launched in December 2017, the Solar Revenue Put has now been purchased by established sponsors AES, Invenergy, IGS, GCL, and Coronal, covering $500 million in assets.

 
 

As the market leader in solar portfolio management, customers including US Bank and Google rely on HelioStats to manage over 250,000 solar systems.

 

How kwh analytics fights climate change

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The engineers at kWh Analytics get the opportunity to work at the forefront of innovation in an emerging industry, with an experienced, mission-driven team. We've created the largest database on solar asset performance and because of that are uniquely able to address some of our industry's biggest challenges. Our team powers the growth of the solar industry, an industry vital to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately fighting climate change.


Industry leadership

kWh Analytics works with many other stakeholders in solar to lead initiatives and create innovative tools that move the industry forward.

Collaborative Reports

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Industry experts in solar production risk kWh Analytics, DNV GL, PV Evolution Labs, Borrego Solar, Clean Power Research, Heliolytics, Clean Energy Associates, Strata Solar, Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, and SunPower have partnered to publish the new ‘Solar Risk Assessment 2019’ report to advance the solar industry.

kWh Analytics collaborated with the Solar Energy Industries Association and Department of Energy to produce ‘Best Practices for Solar Risk Management,’ the first definitive guide to help solar financiers successfully navigate investment, compliance, and risk management.

Industry Benchmarking

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The Solar Lendscape catalogs the solar industry’s most active lenders, including their check sizes, target market segments, and product type.

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Dealflow is a detailed list of asset and M&A transactions and financing, analysis of trends in loan terms, and exclusive/featured deals.

Department of Energy Grants

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Orange Button Translate was the first piece of software designed exclusively to support the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office’s (SETO) Orange Button data standards.

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kWh Analytics won a $1.25 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) to utilize its real-world data to quantify degradation rates and increase the affordability and reliability of photovoltaics.

 

resources

  1. kWh Analytics SolarScape and Lendscape

  2. Department of Energy Solar Technologies Office Solar Energy Glossary

  3. National Renewable Energy Laboratory Photovoltaics Research

  4. PVLib: Open source library for PV Modeling