Project Solar doesn’t make solar panels or hire crews to put them on rooftops, but the startup says it can shake up the residential solar business by cutting out sales reps and automating parts of the ordering, design and installation process.
Backed by $23 million in new Series A funding led by Left Lane Capital, Project Solar says it is on track to install 30 megawatts of solar capacity this year, mostly in California and Texas, while apparently undercutting some of its competitors in terms of prices. The startup aims to exceed its 2022 install figure by a factor of five in 2023.
But first, some context: Tesla saved by a knock on the door centuries ago, only to see its market share decline. Meanwhile, Sunrun has more than 100 sales jobs listed on his site and is Upper part residential solar brand by market share. So why would cutting traders work for Project Solar as it currently is far less active as an industry leader?
For homeowners, selling mostly comes down to price. The startup says it charges an average of $2.20 per watt for installations, and as little as $1.63 after federal incentives. That’s about 25% cheaper than the national average for 2021 $2.94 per watt (before tax credits), according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Whether it qualifies as “dramatically lower,” as the startup characterizes it, is more a matter of opinion. For people who are particularly handy, Project Solar also offers cheaper DIY options.
Project Solar’s revenue comes from marking up equipment prices for which volume discounts are received. The company says that eliminating vendors saves it a dollar per watt, and from there it relies on its in-house software to reduce the time needed for things like system design, permitting and contractor coordination. For each sale, “there are about 40 man-hours of work involved in the backend process (not including the physical labor of installation, which typically takes a team of 3-4 people 8 hours),” CEO Trevor Hiltbrand told TechCrunch. He added that the firm’s software includes “a tool that has reduced engineering/CAD time from 3 hours to 30 minutes.”
Project Solar plans to use the Series A to expand into the Midwest and South and continue to work on its software. Beyond Left Lane Capital, Project Solar declined to share who participated in the funding round, calling them “industry strategists.”