FTC updates SunDAT PV with new rooftop solar design features

FTC Solar

Rooftop PV design in SunDAT featuring PanelClaw and new electrical features.

PV design automation software SunDAT from FTC Solar is adding PanelClaw racking to its component library and new electrical design features for rooftop projects. The new electrical design features will be available in the Pro version of SunDAT, while the PanelClaw products will be made available to all users.

SunDAT’s new rooftop DC electrical design features allow users to identify PV source circuits in their module layout and place electrical equipment in 3D. Defining precise equipment locations and electrical hierarchy enables SunDAT to auto-generate a DC wire schedule and a BOM that can be used for cost estimation and construction.

The collaboration between FTC Solar and PanelClaw represents both companies’ commitment to streamlining the solar process through design, permitting and construction. Once a design is completed in SunDAT, a simple import into PanelClaw’s clawOS system will generate construction-ready plans in minutes.

“The power of SunDAT for automated array layout generation and electrical system design combined with the power of clawOS for racking structural design yields a state-of-the-art tool flow that significantly improves the productivity of commercial roof top PV system designers,” said John de Papp, CTO of PanelClaw.

— Solar Builder magazine

FTC updates SunDAT PV with new rooftop solar design features

FTC Solar

Rooftop PV design in SunDAT featuring PanelClaw and new electrical features.

PV design automation software SunDAT from FTC Solar is adding PanelClaw racking to its component library and new electrical design features for rooftop projects. The new electrical design features will be available in the Pro version of SunDAT, while the PanelClaw products will be made available to all users.

SunDAT’s new rooftop DC electrical design features allow users to identify PV source circuits in their module layout and place electrical equipment in 3D. Defining precise equipment locations and electrical hierarchy enables SunDAT to auto-generate a DC wire schedule and a BOM that can be used for cost estimation and construction.

The collaboration between FTC Solar and PanelClaw represents both companies’ commitment to streamlining the solar process through design, permitting and construction. Once a design is completed in SunDAT, a simple import into PanelClaw’s clawOS system will generate construction-ready plans in minutes.

“The power of SunDAT for automated array layout generation and electrical system design combined with the power of clawOS for racking structural design yields a state-of-the-art tool flow that significantly improves the productivity of commercial roof top PV system designers,” said John de Papp, CTO of PanelClaw.

— Solar Builder magazine

This new SolarDesignTool instantly generates solar permit packages for AHJ approval

solardesigntool

With solar technology being better and more cost effective than ever, the next big area of need is in soft cost reduction. That’s why this new web-based SolarDesignTool is so exciting — it is a complete permit package generation tool for residential rooftop photovoltaic systems. Each solar permit package contains a cover page, site plan, single-line diagram, placards and labels, attachment plan, fire safety plan, equipment data sheets and certifications, and attachment detail when using rail-based mounting components from Unirac, SnapNRack, IronRidge, or Quick Mount PV.

“The permitting process has typically been a major headache for installers and the last major hurdle to getting solar into the hands of the consumer,” says Derek Mitchell, SolarDesignTool’s founder and CEO.

Conceived as an alternative to traditional CAD-based methods of permit package creation, prone to long turnaround times, human-induced typos, and miscommunication errors, SolarDesignTool’s web-based approach allows solar installers to specify a system design in as little as 15 minutes, then generate and download a complete permit package instantly with a single click.

Shadow costs: How outdated local processes stifle the true solar market

“I have been designing PV systems for over ten years and I am always looking for the best way to provide a complete design that is error-free. SolarDesignTool is without a doubt the best tool I have found that performs this function,” says Kimandy Lawrence, Director of Project Engineering at Florida-based solar installer Urban Solar. “Three to four hour detailed designs now take thirty minutes or less. I can truly say that SolarDesignTool is the ‘Holy Grail’ of PV system design.”

In addition to improved speed and accuracy, automation and economies of scale allow for radical reductions in price. SolarDesignTool’s permit packages are priced at just $49-85, depending on volume. Each permit package comes with unlimited free revisions and a money-back guarantee if rejected by the AHJ.

Since the release of the permit package feature, thousands of permit packages have been generated and submitted to AHJs around the United States with a rejection rate of less than 0.5%. Moving forward, SolarDesignTool plans to make the solar permitting process even more streamlined by integrating with other solar software solutions on the market. Enabling web-based permit package generation for designs created with other software will eliminate the need to enter system design information in multiple locations, saving solar installers time and money.

— Solar Builder magazine

PV Pointer: Three tactics for better solar designs under time of use rates

The promise of lower utility bills is a key motivator for most prospective solar customers, but time of use (TOU) rates — which charge different electricity prices depending on the time of day — add complexity to finding the best deal for the customer. Luckily, there are several strategies solar contractors can use to design the optimal PV system under specific TOU rates that will increase a customer’s solar savings and make your proposals more competitive.

olar design and financial analysis software

Solar design and financial analysis software example.

1. Start with integrated system design and financial analysis tools

One of the first considerations for finding the best design for TOU rates is to make sure you’re using software tools that will let you easily and accurately determine how different design choices will impact the financial returns of your project.

The structure of TOU rates varies, with important differences in the time periods when different pricing applies. TOU rates can be very favorable for solar customers if peak price hours coincide with when PV systems produce the most. In other cases, like when peak price hours occur in the evening, TOU rates can reduce solar savings.

To get an accurate understanding of your customer’s savings, your financial modeling tools must take into account how much the PV system will produce at different times, combined with the exact structure of your customer’s TOU rate. Beyond that, integrated solar design and financial analysis software will allow you to quickly see how system design changes or alternative utility rates affect project economics.

2. Get smart about post-solar rate choices

A second consideration for saving your customer the most money with their solar installation is to familiarize yourself with their utility rate choices and the financial implications of different rates. In some cases, the solar customer only has one potential rate that they are eligible for, but other times (like for some PG&E customers) there are multiple options. If your customer has a choice between rates, make sure to explore the financial implications of different options.

Choosing the best rate can significantly improve the economics of the project. In a case study of a solar design for a medium-sized office building in PG&E territory in California, Aurora Solar found that choosing a different post-solar rate resulted in over $42,000 in additional savings over the lifetime of the project. In addition to the increased savings making your proposal more compelling, this kind of expertise can distinguish your company in the sales process.

3. Explore alternative azimuths for your PV design

Finally, contractors can also experiment with different azimuths (orientations) to adjust the timing of some of the array’s production. For example, if a system is facing west, it may produce less overall but have more production later in the day. In cases where peak hours are late in the day, there may be times when this makes sense.

Again, using an integrated program for solar design and financial analysis makes assessing the merit of these kinds of design changes a lot easier because you’ll more easily be able to compare the value of the solar energy produced, overall system production and other financial metrics like payback period.

Even if TOU rates have not arrived in your area yet, they are likely to be more common in the future. Getting smart about how to maximize your customers’ savings under TOU rates can help you stay ahead of the curve.

— Solar Builder magazine

This startup is linking solar manufacturers, installers directly to homeowners

Haha Smart

After two and half years R&D, privately-funded solar tech startup HahaSmart launched its solar O2O (online-to-offline) platform that gives homeowners the ability to design a home solar system, receive an accurate detailed price list within 2-3 minutes, and purchase a home solar system at a lower price.

Unlike most solar software companies, the HahaSmart platform is funded by and is partnering with solar manufacturers and distributors. This enables the platform to create quotes with detailed price lists based on real-time vendor product and inventory data.

Lowering small solar contractors’ operation costs and customer acquisition costs through newly available technology is the core value of the HahaSmart platform. Allowing multi-device connectivity, HahaSmart also launched a solar installer app available now in the App Store and Google Play Store.

“This was not possible until now because the solar industry was not mature enough. HahaSmart gives installers the capability to instantly prospect, sell and close leads in real-time when buying temperature is high. This is a dream come true in sales and marketing because it can increase sales volume and reduce friction,” said Terence Custodia, Marketing Manager.

Transitioning from Beta testing to being fully operational, HahaSmart’s O2O Solar Platform is already serving 298 solar installers and has designed 2,296 solar projects across the United States.

“By linking homeowners to solar manufacturers and vendors directly, we are able to cut homeowner solar system investment costs by 25%, cut payback period from 8 years in 2010 to 4 years in 2018, and achieve 15%+ IRR,” said Jack Meng, President of HahaSmart.

— Solar Builder magazine