One of the persistent questions that co-op utilities, and for that matter any solar buyer, asks is “How much will this cost me in total?” and “How much energy will this system really produce?” To help co-op managers and engineers answer those questions the SUNDA team developed the PV Cost & Finance Screening Tool.

This spreadsheet based tool has been wildly successful in helping co-ops in the “what if?” stage of planning a solar project.

The tool needs just two pieces of information to begin with, the size of the desired system and the zip code in which the array will be located. From this it calculates system costs and expected output (based on PVWatts) as well as calculates the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) under four different financing scenarios.

Unlike many other analysis tools available to utilities, this one is not a “black box” but open spreadsheet based, so it is possible to see exactly how each number was calculated and to modify the inputs, cost models, formulas or assumptions to suit the particular needs of the co-op.

This tool is a huge benefit in performing “what-if” analysis and allows the user to see all the equations and change any variable until they are satisfied with the results.

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