By Senthil Balasubramanian, CEO of Sistine Solar, Inc.
“You can have any color car so long as it is black”, quipped Henry Ford a century ago. The plethora of colors that cars come in today would have seemed wishful thinking to the nascent auto industry of the 1920s. It begs an intriguing question: if the ubiquitous monochromatic panels of today are the Model T of solar, what will the solar of the future look like?
The popular Universal Orlando theme park in Florida offers a first glimpse into that future. Located in the retention pond at the entrance to the park is a spectacular 250KW floating solar array that features the branding and iconic peacock logo of the park’s parent company, Comcast. This world’s first custom branded solar that will be visible to the estimated 11 million visitors to the park every year was made possible by SolarSkinTM, Sistine Solar’s patented graphic overlay for solar arrays.
The project developer, D3Energy, could have opted for a run-of-the-mill traditional array, but instead saw a radically new way to imagine and value solar. If you are a commercial solar developer or installer, it is worth examining the four ways SolarSkin unlocks new financial value for you and your customers.
Value Added Sales
Winning a customer in the competitive commercial solar market is not easy when the customer hears the same pitch about payback and long-term savings from every developer. But, the observant developer knows that a big reason brands decide to go solar is the need to satisfy their customers’ growing clamor for sustainability. In fact, a recent Capgemini study revealed that 52% of consumers say they share an emotional connection with brands they perceive as sustainable. SolarSkin offers developers a way to directly meet this growing need with a differentiated offering. It enables Fortune 50 companies like Comcast to not only go solar but also showcase their green initiatives to their customers.
Achieving sustainability and marketing goals at the same time doubles the return on investment (ROI) from the solar project. In practical terms, what it means is that the customer is now able to leverage not just their solar budget, but also their marketing budget, to pay for the project. And that is huge because US companies spend a substantial $8.6 billion a year in outdoor marketing alone. The ability to tap into that sizeable pool to finance a solar project increases the odds of closing the contract and grows the addressable set of opportunities for the solar developer.
Brand Sponsored Installations
Today, commercial solar projects rely heavily on tax equity financing to make the economics work, but that well has been drying up alarmingly. In several high-visibility locations such as airports, transit stations, and sports stadiums, asset owners and developers are tapping into a new revenue source – offsite brand sponsorship made possible by SolarSkin. The sponsoring brand pays for the rights to feature its logo on the array, and it becomes a win-win for everyone. The brand gets publicity in a prime venue; the asset owner gets a new revenue source; the off-taker gets a net cheaper rate; the developer gets a project that otherwise would not have penciled out due to insufficient returns.
SolarSkin can take brand sponsorship a step further by facilitating recurring revenue streams. A portion of a large carport in, say, a busy airport, is reserved for advertising using SolarSkin. Periodically, that ad space is sold to a different sponsoring brand for a set period of time. In fact, this is the very same model that is used in outdoor advertising around the world. As it turns out, the advertising revenue potential in airports and other prime locations is multiples more than the value of the electricity generated by the solar array.
The Model T has long since given way to stunners like the Audi R8 and the Aston Martin DB10. But the more significant transformation that happened in the automotive industry was the advent of novel financing structures that made cars affordable and a must-have for every household. SolarSkin by Sistine Solar achieves both for solar. Monochromatic solar will soon become a thing of the past in the modern day consumer’s imagination. And just like how third party financing and loans propelled residential solar in the past decade, the ability of SolarSkin to unlock the muscle of marketing budgets, the economics of brand sponsorship, and the recurring revenues of advertising, can usher in the next wave of corporate financing in commercial solar.
Senthil Balasubramanian is the CEO of Sistine Solar, Inc. Sistine Solar is an MIT-born company and the developer of SolarSkinTM, a patented overlay technology that allows traditional solar arrays to feature branding, logos, text, or custom artwork. For more, visit here.
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