Project Solar doesn’t make solar panels or hire rooftop workers, but the startup argues it could shake up the residential solar business by eliminating sales reps and automating the ordering, design and installation process.
Backed by $23 million in fresh CRI funding led by Left Lane Capital, Project Solar says it is on track to install 30 megawatts of solar this year, apparently undercutting some of its competitors, particularly in California and Texas. The startup aims to increase its installation figure by five times by 2022 by 2023.
But first, some context: When Tesla knocked on the door ages ago, it only saw its market share decline. Sunrun, meanwhile, has more than 100 sales jobs listed on the site and is the top residential solar brand by marketshare. So why would cutting salespeople work for Project Solar, which currently has no activity as an industry leader?
For homeowners, the sale often comes down to price. The startup said it charges an average of $2.20 per watt for installations and up to $1.63 after federal incentives. That’s about 25% cheaper than the 2021 national average of $2.94 per watt (before tax credits), according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Whether or not it qualifies as “incredibly low,” as the rookie puts it, is more of a matter of opinion. For the particularly handy people, Project Solar also offers inexpensive DIY options.
Project Solar’s revenue is derived from the pricing of equipment for which it receives voice rebates. The company says cutting out salespeople saves it a dollar per watt, while relying on in-house software to cut critical time such as system design, licensing and coordination of contractors. For each sale, “there’s about 40…hours of work in the back-end process (not including manual labor, which usually takes 3-4 people eight hours),” CEO Trevor Hiltbrand told TechCrunch. He added that the company’s software includes a “tool that has reduced engineering/CAD time from three hours to 30 minutes.”
Project Solar plans to expand the Series A to the Midwest and South and continue to work on the software. Beyond Left Lane Capital, Project Solar declined to share who participated in the financing round, calling them “strategies in the industry.”