The key question of renewable energy is cost-effectively producing commodity electrons. One of the most pressing questions for SolarTech, Silicon Valley’s solar energy trade association, is accurately estimating the financial returns of rooftop PV and other RE systems.
In the Spring 2010, SolarTech commissioned a consulting team of finance students from the Sbona Honors Program to look at the most commonly used tools for calculating solar returns. (I supervised a second team on local permitting, and initiated the cooperation between SolarTech and the SHP for both teams.)
The actual report is available on the SolarTech website and was announced Wednesday in a SolarTech press release, timed to next week’s InterSolar conference in San Francisco. Because it is a building block of the SJSU-SolarTech cooperation, I wrote more about the background and goals of the study in our new Solar Workforce blog.
The short answer: the students think the best alternative (of the four) is the NREL’s Solar Advisor Model. The caveat is that study was mainly on features and usability, and there still needs to be an audit (by subject experts) of the accuracy of the calculated results.
Still, this is a great example of how business schools (and undergraduate students) can be relevant to the emerging renewable energy industry. It also offers some insight to us in business schools how to bring the industry’s real business problems into the classroom.