The Solar Software Ecosystem: Page 3 of 5

Platform Profiles

For simplicity and transparency, I have organized the following software platform profiles alphabetically. The majority of these vendors offer a free trial period for their software that typically lasts 30 days. Some vendors provide full access to software features during this trial period, while others limit the features available. Product support options also vary, ranging from email or phone support to online help centers.

Keep in mind that software developers change and iterate their products multiple times per year. Many of these software companies have release roadmaps for introducing additional service layers or significant platform features later in 2016. Check the vendor’s website or call the company for the most up-to-date information.

Airphrame Airphrame is a deployable service that allows users to obtain different types of aerial and geospatial data for potential sites on demand. The company can provide high-resolution 2-D orthomaps and 3-D point clouds. The former provide the same perspective as Google Earth but reflect present site conditions; the latter are similar to LIDAR data and allow users to determine the slope, azimuth and size of the area. Airphrame can also provide a 3-D model that users of computer-aided drafting programs such as AutoCAD and SketchUp Pro can import to assist in their design work. AutoCAD users can import and manipulate raw-point cloud data and aerial imagery. Users can even import certain types of Airphrame data into solar design tools such as Aurora and HelioScope (via SketchUp Pro integration). 

Airphrame currently best suits EPC firms developing projects where survey measurements are critical, such as large, complex buildings, greenfields or brownfields. The company has also started to work with businesses that can process large amounts of imagery and 3-D data, which designers can use for generating system designs and shade analyses in proprietary or commercial solar proposal and sales platforms.

Airphrame / 415.340.2147 /

Aurora Solar Depending on the package purchased, solar companies can use Aurora as a sales-only tool or as an integrated sales and engineering platform. Where LIDAR data are not available, the platform can convert 2-D images into 3-D models. These 3-D data enable sophisticated shading and performance analyses and provide compelling graphics for sales proposals. Users with access to the engineering package can generate single-line diagrams exportable to ArcGIS, AutoCAD, SketchUp or Visio. This version of the software also verifies NEC compliance and autogenerates a bill of materials and a detailed cost breakdown.

Aurora is ideal for companies developing residential and small commercial solar projects. Over the last year, the company has integrated features for developers of larger-scale commercial and industrial projects. The platform is now capable of supporting and optimizing dual-tilt array designs and arrays on curved surfaces. Though some financers may ask for additional PVSyst models to meet underwriting requirements, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has verified that Aurora’s remote shading results are statistically equivalent to on-site measurements.

Aurora Solar /

Energy Toolbase Energy Toolbase originally developed its software platform for commercial energy storage developers. It can also model and optimize customer savings for PV systems or solar-plus-storage systems based on different utility tariff options. Users can import raw interval meter data for customers of participating utilities via Green Button. Energy Toolbase can then use these data to compare different scenarios, such as tiered or time-of-use rate structures, with or without solar. The platform allows users to model demand reductions for PV or solar-plus-storage systems. It also supports virtual net energy metering (NEM) and NEM aggregation, and can model savings for California customers subject to NEM 2.0.

In addition to serving energy storage developers, Energy Toolbase ideally suits installation companies that want to help customers analyze potential utility tariff changes, identify optimal system designs and quickly generate customer-friendly proposals. Utility tariffs and net metering policies are shifting all across the country. Companies that understand how to navigate and work within this changing landscape can help customers become more energy literate and ensure that they get the most value out of a right-sized solar energy system.

Energy Toolbase / 866.303.7786 /

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