The Importance of Solar Software

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When Silicon Valley's old obsession meets one of its newer ones.

The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal in conversation with industry entrepreneurs shaping our future. See full coverage

Clean Power Finance doesn't make solar cells. They don't make solar modules. They don't install solar systems. They don't put up the money to put solar systems on houses. And yet, they are an important part of the emerging clean technology ecosystem.

Clean Power Finance is a marketplace for all the pieces of the solar value chain to find each other. For many years, solar was a small and fragmented market. It was difficult to find the right suppliers, installers, and financial backers. Now, CPF is trying to streamline that process and take the friction out of the business.

The way they do that is to offer a business-to-business software platform. That's not exactly sexy. In fact, it may be the opposite of sexy. But it's this kind of solution that's helped other industries scale and grow. And it's the sort of thing that green tech was never big enough to warrant. Point is: the efficiency of a solar cell is not the only kind of efficiency that matters in driving down the cost of zero-carbon electricity. 

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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