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Renewable Energy

How Solar City is scaling up commercial solar installations

June 12, 2015

When it comes to the photovoltaic installation game, Solar City is the big name on the field. The company is looking to big commercial customersnot just residential installationsto grow their business.

In a Studio C interview at GreenBiz Forum 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona, GreenBiz's Heather Clancy sat down with Solar City's vice president of commercial sales and storage solutions Erik Fogelberg to talk about how the company is accelerating its commercial installations.

Fogelberg said that when it comes to installing PV systems for Fortune 500 companies or government organizations like schools, speed is the name of the game.

"If you think about it from any commercial customer, it's how do I not impact your business. They want to see savings quickly and they don't want us to impact their business, so that means speed," Fogelberg said.

Fogelberg said that labor is a huge cost, so reducing the amount of labor spent on each installation saves time and money.

"Getting down that speed and doing it safely is kind of mission critical, both for our customer experience, as well as for our own costs. All of that ties into a lower cost of power," he said.

But installing systems quickly can't be done willy-nilly. Carelessness can lead to hazards for the customer, injuries for Solar City workers, or lost revenue from a faulty or poorly conceived system.

"Our challenge for commercial is we need to install it quickly and it needs to be safe," Fogelberg said. "Often, the other challenge wee have is a really limited amount of roof space. You have size size constraints and weight constraints. You take all of that into account, and come up with a solution."

Part of that solution is Solar City's proprietary snap-in assembly system that allows workers to finish installations much faster than traditional installs.

"Now you have systems that are snapping in place really quickly. So if you have a ten day install, we're doing half the time," Fogelberg said. "So you're getting the system up in two or three days, which is pretty amazing."

At the end of the interview, Clancy asked Fogelberg for a final thought. He answered with what he'd like to see customers do with solar.

"I would love to see more customers looking at [solar] at a larger scale. We're starting to see it, if you look at some of the announcements buying 130 megawatts worth of power," he said. "We're looking at kind of a holistic across all of their sites in the U.S. to figure out how to do that rollout, and often the discussion is, 'Do you want to have more megawatts, or more savings?'"