Growth in the US solar photovoltaic market — US capacity was at 1.183 gigawatts in 2008 compared to 21.3 gigawatts today — has primarily been driven by the residential sector and large-scale initiatives from only the largest corporations, as well as utility companies. For small- and mid-sized businesses, the lack of easy and cost-efficient methods to evaluate and mitigate the risk of solar projects has historically been a significant barrier to entry. But technology is creating a brighter future for small- and mid-sized businesses looking to invest in solar, TechCrunch reports. And the government is seeking to help, as well.
Smaller commercial facilities don’t have the economies of scale and other benefits enjoyed by larger corporations, making it more difficult to find investors. But there is a growing trend among both the government and tech companies that hope to make solar energy more affordable for small businesses and home owners. Last fall, small and medium-sized businesses in the UK were being encouraged to take advantage of their Annual Investment Allowance (AIA), a government incentive in which businesses can benefit from 100 percent tax relief until the end of 2015 on up to $798,000 spent on plant or machinery, including onsite renewable energy and solar PV. And earlier this month, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill that may encourage investment in solar technology for small businesses, according to NJ Spotlight. The bill, is backed by clean-energy advocates and the solar industry; New Jersey pledges to have more than 22% of its power come from solar energy and other renewable energy by 2020.
Meanwhile, a number of tech companies are building tools that make solar a more viable option for small businesses. HelioScope, for example, provides CAD-like tools built specifically for solar so companies can quickly design exactly the system they want to build, and making it easier to decide which proposals are worth the time and how to make the most of them. Another company, WiserCapital, offers an interactive platform that helps stakeholders – host facilities, systems integrators, and energy investors – gain an understanding of the economic opportunities of third-party financed solar projects, along with a streamlined process to support them.
The TechCrunch article reports that, according to the 2015 Solar Investment Index, 83 percent of investors will make solar investments a priority in the next five years.
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