How Solar Energy Collective Used SolarDesignTool to Keep Up With Fast Paced Growth

Rebecca Biros on October 2nd 2020

Before Lyra, we spent the last ten years doing business as SolarDesignTool. Since then, a lot has changed. We created Lyra to take what we’ve learned and add new product features. Throughout our transformation, our goals have stayed the same: we want to help contractors and installers easily design PV systems and quickly generate permit packages.

We interviewed Sean Burr, the former COO of Solar Energy Collective, to hear about their experience with SolarDesignTool and to see how we’re doing. The results? SolarDesignTool has helped Solar Energy Collective save time and money while increasing their productivity to keep up with fast paced growth.



Could you give us an overview of Solar Energy Collective? 

“We started in Northern California as a solar energy contractor and installer. The main focus was to become a full turnkey, high volume residential installer. Today, we continue to serve homeowners, schools and businesses in 19 different counties. Our construction and engineering teams have cumulatively over a century of construction experience.” 


Tell us about your design and permitting process prior to using SolarDesignTool. What were the factors that drove you to search for a better solution?

Rapid Growth 

“When Solar Energy Collective first started growing, it led to an operational bottleneck. We started off with just having our in-house designers, but then the company grew to a point where they could no longer support the growth.”

Site Surveys 

“Our first challenge was site surveys, specifically finding a site survey process that was able to get all of the data we needed to start the design process. You have to work with people that have a high level of skill in the solar industry and they have to do the full site survey manually. You have to find someone who’s comfortable on the roof, and that was an issue. Prior to using SolarDesignTool, we had to hire a high skilled solar installer to go up and map out the entire roof, which would take them at least an hour at each site in addition to travel time.”

Plan Sets 

“In the beginning, we hired someone in-house that knew CAD to build the plan sets from scratch. They would get the site survey packet and then it would be a manual process to create a design and permit package in AutoCAD. We drew everything out in AutoCAD and then did the electrical calculations manually. We’d have excel spreadsheets and CAD blocks that would help speed it up a little bit, but we had to go on manufacturers sites and use their tools to get the system information. 

The total process of site survey and plan set creation for the entire permit package would take about four to five hours. We could manage one or two a day - but two would be a tough day for the designer.” 


Which features in SolarDesignTool solved the challenges you were experiencing and continue to help your business? 

Saving Time & Money 

“The roof report integration feature allowed us to let go of our site survey tech and reduce the time needed for site surveys from about an hour to ten minutes. This enabled us to quadruple the amount of site surveys done each day, cut labor costs and we continue to pay less in workman's compensation insurance because we don’t have someone running around on the roof.” 

Increasing Productivity 

“SolarDesignTool has allowed us to go from generating one or two design and permit packages a day, to easily ten a day. The fact that SolarDesignTool does instant plan sets helps when you need to prioritize your installs. You can make a plan set anywhere that has internet connection and are able to do instantaneous revisions.”

Easy to Use 

“We hired new employees and quickly trained them to use SolarDesignTool because they don’t have to be a solar expert to do so. That freed up a lot of time for our higher skilled employees to help with other things. Having the design and the tool to generate the plan set in the same interface is extremely helpful. You don’t have to jump around to multiple platforms.”