When consumers install residential solar panels, they are often left in the dark throughout the process, said Scott Nguyen, founder and CEO of Bodhi.
After they sign the contract, they don’t know how long the installation is going to take and what the various steps are, he said.
“You can buy $30 worth of takeout food and track when it goes into the oven, when it goes into the delivery vehicle and when it’s delivered to your front door,” Nguyen said. “You buy a $30,000 solar system and you have no idea when it’s going to be installed, and what the next steps are in the process.”
That’s what happened to Nguyen when he put solar panels on his house in Austin. And it sparked the idea to create Bodhi, which makes a customer experience software platform for solar installation companies.
Bodhi integrates with a solar companies’ customer relationship management software to personalize the homeowner’s solar installation. And once the system is working, Bodhi’s smartphone app sends homeowners information on its performance.
Nguyen founded Bodhi in 2018 and has gone through the Mass Challenge accelerator program. Bodhi has customers nationwide and has been growing steadily as the demand for solar installations has skyrocketed in the last few years, Nguyen said.
When the pandemic struck in March of 2020, Bodhi shut everything down and Nguyen didn’t know when the market would return. But it did return after about three months with a vengeance, he said. Consumers, many stuck at home, decided to go forward with home improvements like solar installations, and demand shot up almost overnight, Nguyen said.
The Texas Blizzard in February of 2021 and the resulting power outages statewide also contributed to a spike in demand in Texas from consumers wanting a home solar system with battery storage, Nguyen said.
To keep up with demand, Austin-based Bodhi last week announced the closing of $4 million in financing led by Clean Energy Ventures, a venture capital firm funding early-stage climate tech innovation.
With the new funding, Nguyen plans to hire more engineers, sales and marketing, and operations staff. Bodhi currently has six full-time employees and two part-time employees. It plans to double by the end of the year, Nguyen said. Bodhi is also developing new products.
“Over the decades, hard costs facing the solar industry have dropped tremendously, but what we’ve noticed is that customers are still hesitant about making the leap to solar,” Daniel Goldman, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Clean Energy Ventures, said in a news release. “Our investment in Bodhi is premised on the potential to make consumer solar purchases seamless, hassle-free, and end-to-end. Bodhi’s platform is designed to alleviate all customer pain points in the installation process and post-installation monitoring, removing the last remaining barriers to greater solar adoption.”
Texas ranks second in installed solar capacity, which makes up less than 3 percent of the energy generated in the state, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. California ranks first with nearly 25 percent of the state’s electricity generated from solar.
“Texas is poised to become a nationwide leader in solar energy, with more than 4 GW of capacity expected to be installed over the next 5 years, with appropriate state policy that removes market barriers and recognizes solar’s benefits,” according to SEIA.
Texas has more than 137,000 solar installations and solar investment has exceeded $14.4 billion, according to SEIA. Its report shows Texas has 86 solar manufacturers, 201 installers and developers, and 225 other companies involved in the solar industry.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some solar companies have experienced supply chain problems particularly with solar batteries, Nguyen said. Solar panels are still available and have not been largely impacted, he said. Labor shortages are also a problem for installation companies, he said. Despite those issues, pricing is coming down, he said.
Prices for solar systems in Texas have fallen 11 percent during the last five years, according to SEIA.
Nguyen says Bodhi’s work in solar is just the start. The company plans to expand into other areas like homebuilding and house buying.