Inspired by Elon Musk: How we developed an app for solar panels

September 12, 2018

It’s no longer a question of whether to switch to alternative renewable energy sources. Providing solar efficiency solutions everywhere is just a matter of time. We bet you know that entering this niche is a win-win business opportunity. As the Statista data shows, Europe will beat the 166 gigawatts mark of installed solar energy systems, Asia – 110, the USA – 100 until 2022.

In this article, openGeeksLab has outlined the essential points of interest regarding solar apps development.

You’ll also read about our experience in creating the web and mobile app for the Myanmar state order that provides solar power supply to low-income customers.

Points of Interest Regarding Solar Application Development

According to Statista forecast, the world market for solar energy will be about 422 billion USD by 2022. No harmful emissions, unpretentiousness in service, and longevity of photovoltaic cells are considered the main advantages of solar energy. The last two points make solar power the conquering area for investments.

To occupy this market niche, you need to consider some issues. We’ve prepared the checklist that will help you to develop a successful solar panel app and avoid possible pitfalls.

The checklist that will help you to develop a successful solar panel app and avoid possible pitfalls

1. Target Countries

To choose the right target market, analyze the following:

  • Basic characteristics of your target audience—gender, age, income, social status in society, etc.
  • Location plays the crucial role in this business. You should consider that the sun doesn’t shine everywhere. When choosing a country where the app will be released, take into account the climatic situation in the region and its landscape.
  • The main requirements for your product—quality, cost, availability, ease of use, etc.
  • The problems your product can solve—space heating, water heating, ventilation systems, lighting systems, cookstoves, electrical supply of electrical appliances, earning extra money, etc.
  • How does the target consumer prefer to make purchases? What influences their choice?

2. Possible Pitfalls and Legal Issues

Every business has specific risks. Solar energy apps are no exception and have possible pitfalls. Solar charger apps development faces all the same legal issues as other business areas. Make sure that your product complies with all local laws, regulations, GDPR standards, the app stores requirements, etc.

We have an article on the top crucial legal issues that will protect your business. Follow this link to find out all the essential points.

3. Competitor Analysis

Mature markets are characterized by low growth rates. As a rule, there is a high level of competition between companies—for example, in many countries of the European Union and the United States.

On such growing markets as South America, Asia, and Africa higher growth rates are usually combined with a low level of competition. These circumstances create more opportunities for running business and investing in new markets and for providing new services. At the same time, keep in mind that this niche is quite new for developing countries. Therefore, be prepared for the fact that people can treat your business with some apprehension and skepticism.

Explore the market carefully. Analyze value propositions of your competitors, the pros and cons, strong and weak points, their customers, financial performance and cash flows.

Pay attention not only to the success stories, but also the failures. The careful analysis allows you to bypass the pitfalls, save time and money, improve the product.

To stand out competitors, you should offer your users unique solutions, features, bugs-free and high-performance app, user-friendly design, etc. Provide the user-centric solutions that help to meet people’s needs and solve their pain points.

4. How You Will Operate Your Business

Business management depends on what type of solar panel company you choose—manufacturer, installer, financer, or wholesaler.

If you are a manufacturer of solar panels, then plan the process of the equipment production taking into account the characteristics of the region and the existing legislation.

Hire the responsible staff—engineers, sales representatives, accountant, installers, drivers network, etc.

Choose transport considering the equipment size, forecasted quantity of solar panels, climate, and road conditions. Evaluate what will be more profitable for you—to purchase your own vehicle fleet or cooperate with the delivery service.

If you are a distributor, then conclude a contract with a reliable stuff supplier.

5. Features

A solar panel monitoring app must contain functional that meet your end-users’ needs and solve their pain points. The choice of tech solutions also depends on your company type.

Most common features for solar-related apps

Here are the most common features for solar-related apps:

  • in-app messaging—posts, live chats, notifications
  • solar energy estimation in real time considering seasonal variation in energy production
  • payback period estimation
  • sunlight intensity and shade measuring
  • weather data
  • integration with geolocation APIs and other required third-party services
  • calculation of solar energy production and how many panels a user needs to produce a certain amount of energy
  • calculation of saved electrical energy and avoided CO2 emissions calculation
  • payment system, payment invoicing, and payment processing
  • database of rates, reviews, and feedbacks
  • charts and diagrams
  • reports on daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis
  • offline access
  • convenient admin panel
  • multilingual support

6. User-centric design solutions

Principles of simplicity in design, intuitive and easy navigation, convenience usage, responsive design for various screens are essential for every good app.

No matter how complex the logic, if you present it most simply, your end users appreciate it. User-centric design approach will help you to boost solar app download.

And, by the way, we’ve already written an article on why business needs good UI/UX design. Follow this link to know the reasons why design is a worthy tool.

7. App Server

You should consider a powerful app server. Depending on the application functionality, there may be a lot of data. You have to take it into account in the architecture and to process on the server side. Also, it’s possible that the server will need to collect data from other sources on its own.

How We Helped Myanmar People to Get Solar Energy

How We Helped Myanmar People to Get Solar Energy

We bet you know that Elon Musk built a 100 MW battery storage farm within 100 days for the Australian government on a dare. If Musk couldn’t keep the promise, he would provide the system free of charge. The state of South Australia often experienced massive blackouts because of the rapid development of renewable energy sources—windmills and solar cells. In result, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla fulfilled the promise.

The Story Behind

Elon Musk inspired us. openGeeksLab accepted the challenge to build a platform for the Myanmar state order to automate our client’s business processes and simplify equipment rent for the locals. Our customer came to us with the idea to make electrical power accessible to their low-income customers.

The point is that most of people in Southeast Asia live below the poverty line. According to the Department of Rural Development data, only 16% of Myanmar households in rural areas have access to the electrical grid. The off-grid locals often use kerosene for daily needs. Unfortunately, most of them can’t afford to buy solar panels. Renting the equipment is their chance for a better life, work, health, and education.

Development Process and Tech Solutions

Development Process and Tech Solutions

Of course, we didn’t develop the app within 100 days, as Mr. Mask did. We spent two weeks just planning. The development process took five months.

SolarHome is the specialized application designed for the needs of a particular company.

Our tasks were not only to build the cross-platform mobile app and the web-based platform but also to implement such a significant functional as the platform operation without an Internet connection.

Backend

We developed backend with Node.js that is most suitable for performing asynchronous operations. The technology allows getting the maximum server performance with the minimum CPU load. We used the MongoDB database for data storage because it provides speed and processing of complex structured data. We used Command Query Responsibility Segregation (CQRS) to speed up the work speed with data. It involves organizing the data necessary to work before these data are needed.

In the absence of Internet connection, we’ve implemented communication through SMS.

Frontend

We used React.js to build the admin panel and React Native to develop the cross-platform mobile app. With React Native, it’s possible to create an app both for iOS and Android devices at once. The framework allowed shortening the development process 1.8 and saved the client’s budget.

Implemented Features

As we’ve already mentioned, SolarHome is the specific solar panel app designed for the needs of a particular company. The design part was on the client side. We developed backend and frontend, implemented the particular features so that our client could control all the solar distributors and the support staff. The functional can be expanded and changed depending on business needs.

In this case, we provided the following solutions:

  1. Management of transactions and operations via the app.
  2. Payment system.
  3. Track of the payment activities and control of cash flow.
  4. Encashment.
  5. Offline support.
  6. Multilingual interface.
  7. The app includes technical safety requirements.

Results

The SolarHome project was launched 1.5 years ago and has reached 15.000+ households in Myanmar. Besides Myanmar, our client is going to release the application to more Southeast Asia— Philippines, Indonesia, and Cambodia.

Conclusions

As you see, entering the solar energy market is quite a complex task and requires a lot of efforts. To run your business successfully, you need to consider specific issues.

As our company’s experience in solar energy area shows, it takes approximately six months to develop and design a solar-related app. To achieve such a result, make a useful and high-quality application with thoughtful functionality, it’s necessary for the development company to make a list of all points, plan the workflow, do all the technical part and design.

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