This is a great thought experiment. Can we make solar PV so simple and cheap that we’ll no longer need residential solar financing? Jigar Shah thinks so. Shouldn’t the goal of the PV industry be to NOT need financing? Or, are there technology constraints that will make financing always needed? Like for automobile market. This is a thought that came up in a recent conversation I had with Barry Cinnamon, the CEO of Westinghouse Solar.

Last April, I wrote a post titled “Will Home Depot Kill the Residential Solar Market?” that was first published in cleantechies and then picked up by Reuters. Home Depots goal was to use their massive supply chain bring solar to the masses and reduce installed costs. The article unpacked some fears that solar professionals were having about big box stores entering the solar supply chain and if that would have a large impact on the solar market. The article dug into industry specifics around pricing, permitting, incentives, and comparisons to other trades to determine if contractors would favor the move and also discussed the implications of major brands backing solar. I published the post a little less then 11 months ago and since then all my assumptions have been correct. I havent’ spoke to a single contractors that does business directly with Home Depot to supply their equipment. I think the reason is simple, the technology requires support. It’s still too complicated and a large majority of companies are not comfortable enough with it to buy it from a big box store when no technical support.

Last week, Barry Cinnamon from Westinghouse Solar reached out to me bring up the article and say he felt the reason Home Depot has not helped the solar industry much. I responded to Barry for 3 reasons. First, he wasn’t a PR person. Sorry PR friends 🙂 Second, he brought up a good point, the solar being sold through Home Depot was too complicated. Third, it was too expensive. So, I decided to do an interview with Barry to get his perspective about technology and business model innovations within solar that are using common sense to make solar cheaper and easier.

Here are the highlights from our discussion. 

After talking with Barry about their continued efforts to simplify solar, I realized an interesting point. Isn’t the goal of the solar PV industry to be to not NEED solar financiers? Like Solyndra. Reduce the costs of solar so much that most homeowners will not need financing.
Westinghouse’s best customers are completely new to solar. They’ll never need to learn string sizing, temperature coefficients, and residential solar will become extremely simple.
Barry said that AC modules are seeing a 50% direct labor reduction compared to industry norms. They’re seeing around 6 to 7 man hours per kW on residential installations compared with the industry average 10 to 11 hours per kW