While the solar energy sector, especially solar PV, is growing into a large industry, thus opening up a number of business opportunities, please be aware that many solar business opportunities in the solar sector are quite capital intensive, and thus these opportunities might not be applicable for everyone!
For those keen on starting a solar business with small scale investments, they need to do more research in order to determine the sector that is the most appropriate for them.
What are the different business avenues in the solar sector for small time investments?
From the point of view of a solar business opportunity, we can say that the following sectors will require relatively small capital investment
- EPC/system integrator – especially for rooftop solar power plants. EPCs deliver turnkey services for the entire project, starting from the design phase to commissioning phase and are usually selected by the plant owner themselves. There are large and established players in this field and the competition is high. It would be advisable for new firms to get into EPC- subcontracting like installation work rather than directly venturing into offering complete solutions.
- Operations and Maintenance Services-Solar PV systems though durable, need regular maintenance and repair. Solar panels need regular cleaning and maintenance and this is mostly done by professionals to prevent damage. Cashing in on this opportunity to offer cleaning services to people who are interested in having their solar panels cleaned the professional way is a smart business move.
- Trading, sales & servicing – wholesale/retail of solar products. This could be for products such as solar modules, or for off grid solar products such as solar lanterns, solar water pumps etc. This opportunity also includes the sales agency opportunities. For example, one can import solar panels in wholesale quantities from countries like China and Hong-Kong; where it is majorly produced and sell to solar panel installers and retailers.
- Solar energy market research and consulting –This includes publishing solar energy reports, high end consulting for companies keen on diversifying into solar energy and being consultants for large solar power plants and help them do business with the right EPC and more. Solar energy consultants sometimes may have to supervise, monitor and make recommendations when a solar installation project is being/about to be carried out.
- Financing assistance – for those professionals with expertise in finance, there are good business opportunities in assisting those putting up medium or large scale solar power plants raise finance. Depending on the country, these opportunities could range from simple financial brokering opportunity to providing turnkey financial services opportunities (including insurance etc.) for the solar power plant developer. Investing in the renewable energy industry is no small financial undertaking, which is why investors need financial support most of the time. You could use your knowledge of the financial industry to seek for financial assistance in form of loans and grants for people looking to invest in the renewable energy industry.
- Assembling of off-grid solar products – These typically are about assembly of solar lanterns, solar streetlights, solar water pumps, solar heating systems and refrigeration systems. This is one of the most viable opportunities in the solar sector and has been a proven, sound business opportunities for most people.
- Solar module assembly – solar module assembly requires much smaller investments than manufacturing of solar cells, but these are not very small. Thus, one can say that solar module assembly opportunities are in small-medium scale and not in the small scale. However, it could be of interest to some small scale companies who are able to raise a bit higher amounts of capital.
- Solar mounting structures -Mounting structures are required for both rooftop and ground mounted projects, hence we can say that the market potential for structures is pretty high. A few domestic and international players are currently operating in the market. It could be a wise investment for small to medium scale enterprises who are able to rope in skilled labour to assist them.
- Solar energy auditing business-Most people do want to cut down on their electricity bills, yet they don’t really get a head start on avenues to do that. With solar energy auditing, you can identify opportunities form them to reduce the energy use and/or the cost of operating a building or industrial process. Whether it’s new construction, renovation, or retrofit, audit reports provide building owners the information they need to decide which of the recommended solar modifications they should implement.