Investor Marc Andreessen has long suggested that software is eating the world. "All companies are now software companies," he famously said.
This surely applies to the solar industry. And it's why GTM is devoting a full day to software at the first Solar Software Summit, coming up on May 10 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Paul Grana of Folsom Labs spoke with GTM about the genesis and relevance of this industry-first event.
"We're running out of room for cost reduction in modules and inverters and racking. And the way to reduce soft costs is an operational story. It's a workflow story that's enabled by software in a lot of cases. It's becoming a much bigger deal," said Grana.
"There's the case where a software tool can take a task and make the task take fewer hours. OK, that's a great win. That cuts down the man-hours for doing a task," he said.
Software tools are also transforming the way people perform work, transferring work from one team to another for maximum efficiency.
"We hear this all the time. We're seeing sales [staff] do a lot of the tasks that engineering used to do in the past. Which basically helps them get to a better PPA bid price, because they can actually run 50 scenarios on their own rather than begging engineering to run five scenarios," said Grana.
But is there really a solar software ecosystem?
Grana likened the solar software value chain to the way people use Slack.
"Slack is really becoming the program of record for business. A company would use Greenhouse, a software tool for managing a recruiting pipeline. Then once someone is hired, they'd use Zenefits to actually set them up in the payroll system. Once they're actually showing up to work you would send them over to Dropbox for all the actual training and employment documents. All that is actually managed through Slack. Slack is kind of the glue in between. It helps the company work more effectively."
"I think that's an interesting framework for thinking about solar, which is to say, there are some programs that are basically working on becoming the glue. Obviously, we're in that camp, as are Sighten and Enact. The whole plan is, we are the place you can go to run your business," said Grana.
Grana pointed out a few must-see sessions at the upcoming event. The Solar Software User Roundtable with First Solar's Brian Kelly, Direct Energy's Stephen Simons, Soligent's Jonathan Doochins, and Vivint Solar's Dan Rapp will look at whether companies should rely on their own software or third-party tools. "As these folks look at third-party tools, do they want to have five vendors or one?"
Find out more about the Solar Software Summit here.