Open Site Navigation

Ion Yadigaroglu, a partner at Capricorn Investment Group and an early investor in Tesla and SpaceX, recently led a $17.5 million Series B financing round in Erthos because he believes the company can lower large-scale solar installation costs by 20 percent with its new structural approach.

Erthos’ method of building solar plants does away entirely with trackers, racking and structural steel. Instead, it installs the photovoltaic solar modules directly on the ground. Canary Media covered the startup when it unstealthed last year.

It’s a radical innovation that challenges a basic architectural tenet of utility-scale solar — and the $3 billion business of trackers and racking. By eliminating what it sees as ​“a tremendous amount of unnecessary materials and risks,” Erthos claims it can build a solar power plant in half the time on one-third of the land, all while using 70 percent less cable and trenching.

“I can say with a straight face that Erthos may be the single largest contributor to decarbonization that we’re involved with over the next decade,” said Yadigaroglu.

20 percent cost improvement on a commodity product
“There are very few opportunities to make 20 percent improvements in the cost-effectiveness of solar,” Yadigaroglu added.

The CEO of Erthos, Jim Tyler, agrees: ​“We’ve done something that’s very difficult to do. We’ve reduced the cost of a commodity — a 20 percent change is just stunning — when companies are trying to make 1 percent or half a percent improvements.”

Yadigaroglu continued: ​“Erthos is making solar more competitive — and it’s doing so in a very boring way. It doesn’t require reindustrializing or taking five or 10 years to develop a product and then building factories around it. It’s simply rearranging parts of the industrial supply system, and then putting solar on the ground differently than the standard practice.”

Daniel Flanigan, chief marketing and product officer at Erthos, said the company calculated the threshold at which the performance gains of tracking are negated by the low price of solar modules.​“You can simply buy more solar modules for the loss of energy you endure for not having a tracker,” he told Canary Media last year. ​“We cross that threshold at module costs of 38 cents per watt.” Despite recent price increases, bifacial modules are still below that threshold and are forecast to be well below it when prices stabilize in 2023 or 2024.

“It’s simpler to install than any system out there” because it eliminates geotechnical concerns, according to Flanigan.

Erthos provides a development platform, acts as the solar architect for the developer and project engineer, and provides operations and maintenance services. The company partners with Directional Services, an installer of utility-scale solar, and has licensing agreements with solar module manufacturers ET Solar, ZNShine Solar and HT-SAAE.

Ensuring that solar costs keep dropping
The U.S. utility-scale solar market has been on a multiyear hot streak in growth, hitting 50 gigawatts of cumulative operating utility solar in 2020 and on track to reach 100 gigawatts by the end of 2023, according to research firm Wood Mackenzie.

The 82 percent reduction in solar cost over the last decade stemmed from economies of scale, better technology and supply-chain improvements, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. But it would be very difficult to keep costs declining at that pace, at least with the current cost stack.

U.S. costs are $0.83/watt for fixed-tilt utility-scale PV systems and $0.89/watt for one-axis-tracking utility-scale PV systems, per the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s photovoltaic cost benchmark report from Q1 2021 (all watt figures are direct current).

Racking costs accounted for about $0.12/watt for a 100-megawatt system, according to the report. That’s the slice of the pie that Erthos is looking to eliminate — part of the lightest blue section in the chart below from NREL.

Eric Wesoff

Erthos rakes in $17M to install solar panels directly on the ground

The startup says its down-to-earth approach can cut the cost of solar farms by 20%.

4th of March 2022

Erthos Technology Deployed Across Four Counties in California

12th of July 2022

Globe Newswire

PRESS RELEASE

4 California solar projects built flat on the ground

12th of July 2022

Solar Power World

NEWS

Erthos & Capricorn close $17.5M Series B financing

1st of March 2022

Globe Newswire

PRESS RELEASE

Other Press

Erthos Technology Deployed Across Four Counties in California

12th of July 2022

Globe Newswire

PRESS RELEASE

4 California solar projects built flat on the ground

12th of July 2022

Solar Power World

NEWS

Erthos & Capricorn close $17.5M Series B financing

1st of March 2022

Globe Newswire

PRESS RELEASE