|New technology is the “white horse” of affordable solar. Many customers hear or assume that technology is always going to improve over time and that will in turn bring down prices. The technology that we’re using today is the same that we’ve been using since 1960 and it is the most efficient way to capture the unlimited, free, clean energy from the sun.|
By Aaron Hall, CEO - Borrego Solar
Aesthetic Expectation: Aesthetics and expectations from the customer. Customers often are disappointed with how their roof looks after the installation. It’s always best to show them the various products on the market beforehand and clearly explain to them how they will be incorporated into their property. Often times a customer’s number one goal is the most efficient system at the lowest cost and this may result in a roof mount that isn’t low profile or using modules that don’t have black backing.
No Uniformity of Requirements: Uniformity of requirements from city to city and building inspector to building inspector are constantly changing. For example, some places ask that you include AC/DC disconnects in places where they’re not necessary and other cities don’t. It’s always best to work with inspectors you’ve worked with previously if possible. Regardless of the planning you take into consideration, this is a necessary evil all builders and contractors are familiar with.
Roof Edges: Setbacks on roof edges for fire hazards give us less usable roof space square footage to install panels on it. This will sometimes limit the system size and what the system’s production can be. Ways around these set back restrictions are to consider more efficient solar modules to make up for the reduced square footage. When possible, an installer might suggest a ground mounted system if there is space and they know that the fire department has setbacks in that municipality.
Old Buildings: Retrofitting older buildings and/or older electrical. There are weight issues that need to be considered when installing on older buildings and you often have to redo some of the electrical work when you go in to install a solar system. These accrue additional costs that get passed on to the customer and either nix the deal or make the project less desirable for all parties involved. It is definitely a better business practice to anticipate these additional costs in advance so you’re not processing change orders throughout the system installation and upsetting the customer with a higher cost than proposed. Always check weight loads and existing electrical before putting a quote or proposal together.
Pricing for Permits: Pricing for permits to install solar panels can be very expensive. Berkeley, CA has a very forward thinking approach and does them for free, but most municipalities charge a premium. This also can be a cost that gets passed on to a customer. Turn-around time for getting a permit can also be lengthy and difficult. Palo Alto is a city that says it’s very green and they make some installers wait three months before they receive the permit to do the installation. That’s three months of lost clean energy production because of some permit red tape. Try and anticipate your territory and the permitting costs and time lags so you can reasonably manage your customer’s expectations.
Difficult Bank Loans: Banks are freezing loans and it is difficult for the majority of our customers to find a financial institution to front their solar investment as they pay off the loan plus interest rates. There are still many financing options available in the market today and solar is definitely attainable with all the incentives from the state and Federal government combined, but the fear of it being an expensive luxury is damaging. People need to realize that this is one of the best and safest investments they can make in today’s uncertain financial market.
New Technology Coming?: New technology is the “white horse” of affordable solar. Many customers hear or assume that technology is always going to improve over time and that will in turn bring down prices. The technology that we’re using today is the same that we’ve been using since 1960 and it is the most efficient way to capture the unlimited, free, clean energy from the sun. There are thin film technologies on the market, which are considerably cheaper, but they do not work nearly as efficiently as traditional solar modules. Most homes don’t have enough roof space to install a thin film system and nanotechnologies are still a few years from consumer deployment.
Minimal Experience: There is a fear of working with a contractor that has been in a business for only a few years and is offering a product that lasts for 30 years. Consumers fear that many solar contractors are new to the industry and can’t be sure that they’re going to last long enough to provide service and repairs to their solar systems as needed. Borrego is fortunate enough not to have that problem since we’ve been around since 1980 and are one of the leaders in the industry.