Why the Solar Industry Needed a Better Procurement Platform

When was the last time you planned a vacation or got new furniture? Did you go to a travel agent or a department store, or did you book and order online?

There was a time when no one would have imagined buying plane tickets or their new kitchen table on the internet, but e-commerce platforms have made it easy to compare a huge selection side by side and order with a few clicks.

As people have become accustomed to buying their consumer products online, e-procurement has also emerged as a preferred strategy for sourcing business goods. The solar industry is no exception. Facing increased procurement challenges in recent years, solar installers and EPCs of all sizes have turned to e-commerce platforms to find the products their projects (and businesses) depend on. 

However, the lack of a common language between buyers and sellers still makes purchasing from some websites confusing. Sunhub has responded to this critical market need with the industry’s first solar trader platform. The online marketplace is changing the landscape for solar buyers, making it faster and easier for residential, commercial and utility buyers to negotiate better pricing.

Distribution sites: simplifying online shopping

When you’re searching for flights on Expedia, you might assume that the platform is communicating directly with the airlines, but it’s not. The airlines disseminate information through intermediate travel distribution systems and Expedia pulls data from those. 

These central distribution systems play an important role by collecting and organizing flights or hotel rooms using the terms a traveler would use to compare and select options. For example, flights are broken down by the number of layovers, luggage and seat options. Hotels may be sorted by the type of bed and number of nights. 

Listing the buying options in the language of the industry is critical for facilitating trade. You wouldn’t search by number of layovers when looking for a couch on Wayfair. You would want to shop by color, size and perhaps if it’s stain-resistant to stand up to your kids and pets. 

As e-commerce evolves in different segments, each industry develops the need for a central trading platform. For example, The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) facilitates the transfer of digital payments for platforms like Square without banks ever needing to communicate with each other. Customers can shop ChemNet to find chemical suppliers, and Zoro for tools and pay during the same visit. 

While these platforms don’t directly own any of the product, they allow buyers and sellers to effectively communicate and successfully trade together. Buyers can conveniently shop a greater selection of inventory at anytime from anywhere at the best possible prices.

Now, Sunhub is bringing a trading platform to the solar industry too. 

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The solar procurement problem

In light of state and federal clean energy policies, and increased focus on the role of renewables in mitigating climate change, solar is growing at a record pace. The U.S. solar industry installed 6.5 GW of capacity in Q3 2023, a 35% year-over-year increase. By 2050 solar is expected to be the largest source of generating capacity on the U.S. grid.

However, procurement challenges could hinder the industry’s growth if solar installers and EPCs can’t obtain the components they need to deliver projects on schedule and on budget. The pandemic disrupted supply chains in many industries, solar included. Trade tariffs and restrictions against forced labor only resulted in more shortages and risk.

Even without the added economic complexities, the process of sourcing solar components alone is cumbersome. It’s time consuming for solar buyers to call and email around to determine who has inventory and wait to get a quote. Many lack direct contact with manufacturers and wait on middlemen to check prices and stock. Even if contractors can find what they need in budget, delivery and payment terms still have to align for a successful purchase. 

While some e-commerce options for solar components do exist, buyers and sellers aren’t speaking the same language. Solar contractors deal with projects in Watts, but sellers list by number of panels, in bulk containers or other units. The confusion continues when it comes to who pays duties for overseas purchases while opportunities to discuss more flexible terms are limited. 

To achieve the Biden Administration’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035, solar energy will need to grow from 4% of electricity supply today to 40%, significantly increasing demand for solar modules and components. With solar buyers finding themselves under the threat of project delays and narrowing profits, the industry is in dire need of a better solution that represents the reality of the market. 

The Sunhub solution

Sunhub’s creators identified this industry gap and saw the need for a trading platform to serve the solar market like the ones that have benefited other industries. The team identified what specifications buyers use to purchase solar panels, inverters and batteries and obtained manufacturer information to list products accordingly, allow for negotiations and simplify sales contracts.  

With a common language, Sunhub facilitates better-priced, efficient transactions between solar installers, EPCs, distributors, manufacturers and the DIY community. An extensive listing of new and used inventory (with options for partial orders) is updated in real-time so there’s no question of what’s available and no difficulty comparing different products from various vendors. 

Prices rise and fall for solar components. Seeing that a lot of bidding was happening in the background of most solar deals, it made sense to structure the platform around it. Sunhub’s team of procurement experts moderate anonymous price and term negotiations between verified buyers and sellers in a convenient chat-based interface. Then, Sunhub captures their final agreement by auto-generating a legally binding contract. If needed, Sunhub can help buyers find sellers and fill in gaps with logistics and warehousing services. Buyers can also plan for future projects with information on forthcoming inventory. 

Buyers enjoy faster procurement and better pricing on solar modules through:

  • Easy quoting, bidding and buying all in one platform
  • Manufacturer and distributor-direct negotiations
  • Available inventory of new and used products with real-time pricing
  • Shopping and purchasing by the Watt with optional partial ordering
  • Advanced project planning with forthcoming inventory information

Using Sunhub’s Solar Trader Platform is simple. You can shop the platform before you log in, and create an account when you’re ready to inquire further or buy.

With the most listings of competitively priced solar equipment, flexible terms and efficient transactions, Sunhub gives solar customers access to the components they need when they need them. Getting products delivered on time and within budget helps the industry keep up with increasing demand for solar projects, enabling the growth and advancement of renewable energy.

Shop Sunhub’s Solar Trader Deal Listings today

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