Interest in renewable energy is on the rise. Much like your customers, who have to weigh the cost of solar-energy installations for their properties, as a business manager you have to consider which solar products make financial sense to carry and install. In order to help out, we've gathered some information that you can factor in to your cost-benefit analysis.
Do the Benefits Justify the Cost of Solar?
Resources and Equipment
As the popularity of solar-power systems rises, so does its pool of available installers. It’s important to distinguish your business from competitors. A simple solution is to expand your offerings to include several types of solar systems and acquire not only an understanding of how to install them, but the ability to advise your clients on which would be most suitable for their properties and energy needs. This, however, can cost you money in training your staff and having the right equipment available.
For example, though some may consider them more aesthetically pleasing than ground mounts, roof-mounted systems require extra work in conducting measurements to ensure that the roof can handle the weight of the panels. In addition, they often require more equipment for the balance of system, some of which might not arrive at the same time as rest. Ground-mounted systems, alternatively, often come pre-engineered, minimizing the time you spend pre-install and onsite. Though there are other costs to the client for ground installations—as they require installation of concrete posts and underground wiring—these systems can maximize production over the course of the year for better return-on-investment over time.
No one knows how to run your business better than you, but there may be a few additions to overhead costs that you don’t see coming depending on what equipment you choose. Insurance, for example, plays a big role: For many companies it’s simply less expensive from an insurance perspective to have your employees working on the ground than on the roof. Thus, if your business can’t sustain its current sky-high insurance rates, maybe it’s best for you to consider working exclusively with ground mounts.
A second expense that you need to consider is the specific tools and equipment that you need to perform the installation. For roof mount systems, the biggest item will be the scaffolding needed to provide access from the ground up to the roof location. And don't forget that it will take a great deal of time to sett up and tear down this staging, as well as someone to lug supplies back and forth from the ground up to the install location.
For ground mount systems the expense and expertise required is primarily related to the site work. The focus here is on the concrete base for the mast and the racking that hold the panels and the groundwork for running electrical wiring.
Depending on your own experience, expertise and licenses, it may make sense to act more like a general contractor on a project and hire specialized subs to do specific tasks related to the site work and installation. It may be beneficial to build a relationship with the specific sub-contractors that you will need as you look at various projects. Having existing relationships with electricians, masons/concrete companies, roofers, etc. will make it easier to know costs and commit to schedules for potential projects.
In addition, especially with systems that are grid-connected, you should spend some time getting to the know the key personnel at the local utility companies. They will need to be involved in the process and will also give you valuable information on the various programs that the utility may offer for net metering.
Finally, it might be worthwhile to examine how much your clients should be paying in terms of your working to file the right permits and conduct comprehensive site inspections. If you find the right partner, however, you can drastically save time, as some suppliers are willing to do a lot of this work on your behalf.
The increase in interest for solar panels can mean more jobs for your company and a boost in your reputation for offering solar options. But doing this the right way requires an investment of time, energy and, possibly, money to have the knowledge, equipment and technical skills to efficiently install solar systems.