Aurora Solar had one of those spaces that seemed obvious in retrospect. Instead of going to a house and manually measuring its roof for a solar panel installation, use aerial photography and images of the entire area. That smart game got them a $ 20 million A round, a $ 50 million B round, and now, just six months later, a massive $ 250 million C round to the software platform on which the upcoming solar power expansion will be carried out.
The idea is easy to explain, but difficult to implement. There is a lot of data available on the physical and infrastructural topography of most cities. Satellite images, lidar scans from the air, light and power lines as well as usage data and of course where and how the sun hits a certain location – this information is easily available. Aurora’s innovation not only took advantage of it, but assembled it into a cohesive system that is simple and effective enough to be used on a large scale by solar installers.
“Aurora’s core value proposition is that you can get things done remotely much faster and more accurately than if you had traveled to the website,” said Co-Founder and COO Sam Adeyemo.
After developing algorithms that capture the above data, the service they offer is a very quick solution to the difficult question of whether a solar system makes sense for a potential customer and, if so, how it could cost and look, right up to to size and size angle of the panels.
An interface that shows a solar roof design and energy savings.
Credit: Solar aurora
“It’s not uncommon for a customer to cost thousands of dollars to purchase,” said Chris Hopper, co-founder of Adeyemo. This is partly because each installation is custom. He estimated that half the price of a setup is “soft cost” – that is, over and above the actual hardware price.
“If the offering is for $ 30,000, there could be $ 15,000 on your roof and the rest is overhead, design, cost, yada yada yada,” he explained. “That’s the next frontier to making solar competitive, and that’s where Aurora comes in. Every time we save a few dollars off the price of an installation, it opens up to new consumers.”
The story goes on
The company doesn’t operate its own lidar flights or solar panels, so the $ 250 million for a software-making company may be quite high. Although I’ve done my best to filter out secret Skunkworks projects at Aurora, Adeyemo and Hopper patiently stated that enterprise-scale software isn’t cheap and that funding is proportional to their ambitions.
“The amount we have raised speaks to the opportunity ahead,” said Hopper. “There’s a lot more solar on roofs.”
Aurora has been used to evaluate approximately 5 million solar projects, of which Adeyemo estimates about a fifth will be built. And that’s only a fraction of a fraction. Solar currently makes up about 2% of the U.S. electricity infrastructure, but that’s well on the way to growing an order of magnitude over the next 20 years.
The new administration has fueled industry optimism, and whether or not something like the Green New Deal comes to fruition, the radically different approach to environmental and energy policy means there are more eyeballs pointing to clean energy and consequently many are directed by checks to be written.
“It’s very important. As awareness about climate change increases, there will be more interest in ways to mitigate climate change,” Adeyemo said. He cited the example of Texas, which had more requests per capita than anywhere else in the country following recent storms and power outages. Renewable energies may be a burdened issue in some ways, but solar energy is non-partisan and widespread across the political spectrum.
Credit: Solar aurora
Coatue’s $ 250 million round, which has included previous investors such as ICONIQ, Energize Ventures, and Fifth Wall, allows the company to go both broad and deep with its product.
“In the past we were more of a design solution. The next phase is to expand that into a platform that covers more of the process of solar energy,” said Hopper. “We don’t think this will be a niche market – from 2% to 20% and beyond, this is a big undertaking.”
The co-founders wouldn’t be more specific than scaling a SaaS business which requires significant money upfront, and during the push ahead they can’t worry about if or when they will need more capital.
“The first five years of the company were pretty much overwhelmed … we had raised like a million dollars. So we know what it’s like to build a business from that perspective, and now we know what it’s like to really need the capital to scale the business, “said Adeyemo. “If you want to be the platform for a significant percentage of the country’s energy capacity … you have to equip yourself.”
We’ll soon find out exactly what the equipment includes – the company plans to announce more news at its upcoming summit in June.