Website to serve as matchmaker for solar firms

A new website launched yesterday aims to make the costly and time-consuming process of finding the right solar panel provider for your home or office much easier.

The site - SolarPVExchange - is a matchmaker in that it links solar panel installers and property owners, allowing firms to submit price quotes for projects put up by individuals and companies.

Property owners will also be able to use the website to estimate their utility bill savings from using solar energy.

SolarPVExchange will take a 4 per cent cut from the cost of successful installation projects.

Interest in solar energy has been gaining momentum, with policymakers aiming to boost its take-up here, including ensuring that it is used across more government buildings and spaces.

"Solar energy is still not widely used here partly due to a lack of access to information," said Mr Rob Khoo, SolarPVExchange's managing director.

This is despite the cost of solar panel installation falling significantly in the past decade.

Mr Khoo added that commercial property owners and developers have expressed interest in the new platform as a more efficient method of tendering for solar energy projects.

About 15 solar panel installation companies have signed on to the platform. There are more than 20 companies in the solar energy sector here.

The cost of installing panels in a home can range from $10,000 to $40,000, depending on the complexity of the process, said Mr Khoo.

Home owners who find the costs too prohibitive can opt for the new site's "crowdleasing" function, which will be rolled out next month.

This will allow investors to help finance installations in homes and offices.

Property owners - who do not incur any upfront costs - will then split their utility bill savings with investors.

"The benefits of solar energy are there, but for a lot of home owners it's a matter of how the installation is financed," said Mr Khoo.

Solar energy firms said the market for installing panels on commercial buildings has gained significantly more traction than residential demand.

Mr Ken Tan, director of solar energy firm Ecosys Infrastructure, said the company has seen rising interest among commercial and industrial property owners, of both upcoming and existing buildings.

This has been concentrated among larger firms, however, as "solar panels require significant roof space".

Ms Tricia Chia, 34, said she has been considering alternative energy for her terraced home because of high utility bills.

"I've always understood it to be quite costly, and not an option for residential homes," added Ms Chia, who works in a private bank.

"But there now seem to be new technologies and financing methods that are more palatable for home owners."

SolarPVExchange was also launched in Malaysia yesterday and will be progressively rolled out to the rest of the region, said Mr Khoo.

The company is also looking into similar platforms for other forms of renewable energy, such as wind and hydroelectric power, he added.

This article was first published on JUNE 20, 2014.
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