S'porean startup helps home/building owners get an instant quote for rooftop solar panel systems


Sumita Thiagarajan | February 08, 2021, 03:36 PM

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Home owners and building owners can now get an instant estimate for the cost of rooftop solar panel systems with the click of a few buttons.

Free online rooftop solar assessment tool

By simply entering their address and the amount of their monthly electricity bill on Solar AI Technologies' website, you can get a free quote on the estimated cost of installation, cost savings and environmental impact of installing solar panels on their roofs.

The local startup launched their free online rooftop solar assessment tool in October last year with the hopes of driving awareness about solar energy.

A first of its kind in the region, the Singaporean startup has pre-assessed the solar potential of more than 20,000 commercial and industrial buildings within Singapore (which have a rooftop area of 1,000 square metres or more).

The tool takes into consideration the following factors:

  • The amount of sun the roof receives
  • Available space on the roof for solar panels
  • User’s electricity bill estimate

Using the above-mentioned factors, it recommends the suitable size of the solar system on the roof, potential cost savings and environmental impact of the system.

Traditionally, the rooftop solar assessment process is often complicated and done manually, which means that consumers would not be able to find out the solar savings potential of their home or building unless they speak to a solar company.

But with the tool, consumers can simply do so on their personal devices in a few minutes.

Here's an example of what the process looks like, which include keying in the address of your property to get an estimate of the rooftop area available using computer vision models using satellite imagery:

GIF by writer

In addition to getting a rough estimate on how much solar panel installations might cost, the company also connects home or building owners with energy companies that offer the installation of solar panels.

Since the launch of the tool, the company has seen around 230 unique address searches on the tool across residential, commercial and industrial buildings.

Debunking misconceptions about solar energy

The company's founder and CEO, Bolong Chew, also told Mothership that there are still misconceptions surrounding solar that need to be debunked.

Misconception: Solar is expensive

For example, the 29-year-old who was originally from the finance industry shared that one misconception about solar is that it is expensive.

Citing data, Chew highlighted that the cost of solar has fallen 89 per cent in the last 10 years, and continues to decrease (as seen below):

graph of plunge in prices of solar Graph via Our World in Data

He explained that the main reason to switch to a solar system is actually the potential cost savings it could bring to a home or building owner.

Misconception: No electricity when sun sets

Another misconception the founder has encountered is that having a rooftop solar system means that there would not be electricity at night.

Chew debunked this and explained that the solar systems on buildings are connected to the grid, and that excess energy generated could even earn property owners credits to offset their utilities bill or even earn cash payouts in some cases.

He told Mothership that one private home owner he was aware of benefitted from a rooftop solar system as the home owner's solar system generated more electricity from the rooftop solar panels than the property was consuming.

This meant that the home owner has excess electricity that entered the electricity grid, which the owner was paid back for in the form of direct credit that they could use to offset their monthly electricity, water and even waste bills.

Chew also added that after offsetting water and refuse removal bills, home owners can also receive a cash payout from Singapore Power for excess solar credits.

However, he also added that this is dependent on the electricity consumption of the property and the area of the rooftop solar system.

Other benefits of solar energy

According to Our World in Data, solar is one of the safest sources of energy, as compared to energy from fossil fuels, when compared in terms of the death rate from accidents and air pollution.

It also is one of the cleanest sources of energy in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

Beyond its benefits to human lives and the environment, installing solar systems on rooftops can be a way to save, or even make money, according to Solar AI Technologies.

When asked what those who live in HDB flats or apartments can do if they don't own a building, here's what the young Singaporean founder told Mothership:

"Most Singaporeans like me live in HDBs and may not be able to directly install solar on our roofs, but there’s still a lot that we can do to advocate for solar in the buildings that our employers occupy or to spread the word to our friends[...]"

The company's next steps are to expand their business regionally in Southeast Asia (such as in Malaysia and Phillippines), and Australia in the third quarter of this year.

You can find out more about the company here.

Top image via Angie Warren/Unsplash