Reducing Solar Soft Costs through Software Solutions | full interview

What exactly are solar soft costs?

Solar still isn’t a no-brainer. It remains a major investment that’s not affordable to most families, business owners, schools, municipalities and others. What’s the simplest way to make it more accessible? Reduce soft costs.

It’s estimated that 66% of a U.S. solar project is soft costs. These are the costs of running your business, explains Jan Rippingale, CEO/founder of Blu Banyan Software. “. . . acquisition, interfacing with utilities, interconnection, permitting . . .” along with taxes, accounting systems, project management and the run around time spent to actually get paid.

The U.S. Department of Energy says residential projects can reduce soft costs by one-third. Jan is helping individual solar installers do just that through software her company developed to put all parties on the same page.

First trained and working at NASA, then on Wall Street, Jan made her way back to California, software technology, and a personal mission to make the world a better place for her now five-year-old daughter.

What is Orange Button and how is it made tangible?

Built on the NetSuite accounting platform, Blu Banyan is leveraging Orange Button, an agreement about terms used when transferring data, which Jan calls information taxonomy. “If we’re all using the same terms to describe a site, for instance, then we’re able to consistently say, here’s the site. And here’s the energy consumption information. And here are the structures and here’s the risk criteria for those structures. And then we can feed that into which AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) the site might be associated with and determine what kind of PV system or battery system we want to generate.”

Blu Banyan is able to interface with multiple software, says Jan. The Solar Success data is packaged and shared. “I just have to build it once and then everybody can use it. That is the advantage of having orange button and a common taxonomy.”

Solar Success software has accounting and inventory management for supply chain and field service scheduling, and much more. It is complementary to The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Solar App, developed to standardize plan review and permitting.

“Our Solar Success is able to submit the site object, the Solar App API will consume it and then submit the permit,” explains Jan. “We can start transferring the data . . . with consistency across the entire life cycle of a given project . . . reducing the cost of doing business.”

How successful is Blu Banyan at helping reduce soft costs?

“After six months live, our clients are saving five cents a watt in the residential space on just overhead wages. So that translates if you’ve got an 8Killowat house . . . 240 to $400 per project. If you’re doing a hundred projects a month, that’s 24 to $40K a month in savings,” according to Jan. “The Orange Button taxonomy is a piece of it, because when we’re all speaking the same language, we can actually coordinate and cooperate with each other in ways that we haven’t been able to do before.”

Watch the full video interview here: Solar Podcast in which Jan Rippingale, CEO and founder of Blu Banyan, speaks to host Tim Montague about the road to reducing solar soft costs through software that streamlines project management and accounting and sets up consistent communication. Sponsored by Continental Energy Solutions.