Solar energy technology and solar installers vary significantly in quality, performance, and reliability.
Choosing an installer for your solar project may seem like a purely financial decision at times but we think the most important aspect of the project is the quality and approach of your chosen installer.
All Solar is Not Created Equal
The solar industry is rapidly evolving, with new technologies and innovations being introduced on a regular basis. This means that there is significant variability in the performance and reliability of different solar products and services, making it difficult to treat solar energy as a commodity.
In addition, solar energy projects are often customized to meet the specific needs and requirements of individual customers, which adds further variability to the market.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to ensure you are getting the most out of your solar installer.
- Do the installers services align with your needs?
- Who is doing the work?
- What is their experience?
- Are they using quality equipment?
- Will they be around to maintain the solar array?
1. Do the installer's services align with your needs?
The most iconic part of a solar array is the panels themselves. But that is just one of several components that go into making a solar array. Solar array installation is a full construction project, including electrical, non-electrical work, craning, permitting and engineering.
2. Who is doing the work?
The solar industry is rife with national companies offering commercial solar solutions as a development group, but they contract out the installation of the system to a local contractor. They will sell you a project, but won’t complete the installation themselves. What this means is that your solar provider may not be held to the same accountability as a company that delivers on the installation of your solar array themselves.
By choosing a full service, local, turnkey solar company as your partner, you know that they are building the project and are intimately involved in the unique aspects of your building or grounds. By controlling this process, turnkey developers also can maintain a higher quality of installation and can often provide a better economic value to your bottom line by cutting out the middle man.
3. What is their experience?
As you may have read, there are many companies that have identified the solar space as a fast-growing industry and have wanted to dip their toe in the water by offering solar alongside other electrical services. It is very important to review your potential solar provider’s customer list for both types of installations and project sizes that are similar to yours. Reach out to these customers for references or testimonials about your potential solar provider. How was their customer service? Were there any issues with their install? Was the project installed on time?
Try to avoid companies that offer primarily residential solar solutions and have not historically installed commercial solar. Commercial solar installations can be quite different than your average residential project as you will be dealing with structural engineering, roof warranties, and unique electrical requirements for interconnection. Companies that specialize in commercial solar will be familiar with these processes and will ultimately result in a successful project with no long-term negative impacts to your building or business.
4. Are they using quality equipment?
All solar equipment is not the same. There are countless manufacturers of solar panels, inverters, and mounting equipment. It is imperative to vet your installer’s proposed equipment for quality.
Solar panels come with an industry standard power output warranty of 25 years, but will the company be there 25 years from now to honor that warranty? Thankfully Bloomberg New Energy Finance has been reviewing the worlds leading manufacturers for “bankability” for years. They confirm that major banks have signed off on the use of certain manufacturers installations for large utility scale applications and list these manufacturers as “Tier-1” listed panels. It is always important to make sure you are getting Tier-1 panels from your installer.
Secondly, you want to ensure that your panels are built to high quality standards. You can do this by purchasing a panel that scores highly on PVEL’s Annual Module Reliability Scorecard. This report can be found at https://modulescorecard.pvel.com/. Each year the world’s leading manufacturers send panels from their manufacturing facilities to DNV for significant testing. The tests simulate years of stress, weather, and sun on the panels. They are then ranked according to their performance in the tests.
By choosing Bloomberg Tier-1 rated panels that score highly in PVEL’s Annual Module Reliability Scorecard, you can be positive you are receiving quality products.
5. Will they be around for the long haul?
There are many solar installers in the U.S. that operate on a “build the project and move on” mentality. You will want to ensure that your installer stands by the quality of their installations. Do they offer a warranty on the installation? Are they willing to operate and maintain the array for a fee? Look for an installer that takes a long-term partnership approach to solar development that is willing to ensure your solar array will produce significant energy for years to come.
The financial health of a solar installer is important for several reasons:
- Ability to deliver projects
- Warranty and maintenance
- Quality of materials and installation
- Customer satisfaction
- Long-term viability
Overall, the financial health of a solar installer is important for ensuring the success and longevity of solar installations. It can impact the ability of the installer to deliver projects, honor warranties, provide ongoing maintenance, use high-quality materials, and provide quality customer service and support.
Get the best bang for your buck
After reviewing all of the above, you are ready to make a decision on your preferred solar developer/installer and you know now that solar installation is not a commodity. Get a quote. Don’t be afraid to get another as well; but take the time to review the experience of the installer, who would build the system, the quality of the equipment, and the installer’s approach to their customer support. You will find that the cheapest may not always be the best path forward. Solar is a long term investment that deserves long term support.
We are developers, engineers, electricians, finance wizards, and O&M gurus.
Our solar A-Team has installed over 600 with over 100+ projects under construction across multiple sectors including commercial for-profit businesses, schools, local governments, and non-profits. By marrying our technical expertise with a combination of tax incentives, utility grants, and multiple financing options, we provide cashflow positive projects from Day 1.
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