If you haven’t researched solar electric enough to know all of the correct questions to ask a solar salesman, or even if you have and you think you know the right questions, it would be good if you knew what makes a solar expert. 

In the last five years, the alternative energy field has been financially stimulated by government incentives.  At the same time, many other industries have slowed down, causing many salesmen, laborers, project managers and support staff to lose their jobs.  Many of these people have seen the opportunities in the solar companies, and have taken up jobs in the field.   Solar is complex enough to require “time in rank” before one can truly call themselves a solar expert.   And most of these individual jobs deal with only one aspect of the industry.  An administrator will only know about filing the rebate applications and payroll.  An installer will only know about installation techniques and building and safety requirements.  There are many facets to being a true solar expert.

The areas range from the installation techniques, building and safety regulations, the utility rules and interconnection procedures, filing for rebates, system electrical design, structural implications and plan submittal, fire department submittals and rules, plan check and permitting, writing contracts and specifications, equipment (solar panels, inverters and racking) selection, wiring details, monitoring systems, system  maintenance and cleaning, trouble shooting, marketing and of course, sales.

A true solar expert will have active membership and participation in a professional organization such as CALSEIA, SEIA, or ASES.  These networking and solar advocacy groups are in contact with top Building and Safety officials and Utility Provider officials, plus in contact with City Council Members, the CEC, the CPUC, and other government agencies.  By being actively involved in the industry at this level, the solar expert is engaging with other leaders in the solar industry on a regular basis.  By doing this, the solar expert has cutting edge information and will be helping to shape the industry guidelines by a being involved and using a proactive approach.

Yes, this sounds more like the owner of a small business and not salespeople from larger solar companies.  That may not always be the case, there are small solar companies that may not know many of the above aspects, and there are a certainly few salespeople from larger solar companies that have had exposure to all of those elements.  But I am pretty sure that the majority of the salespeople from larger solar companies are not solar experts.

So it is not so important to get the lowest price, or to go with the largest company.  It is probably better to make your decision based on endorsements from the solar companies past clients, combined with a look at the background of the person selling the system to you.  If you choose a solar expert, chances are that you will end up with a better and more productive solar electric installation.  And if you know about solar, it’s all about production.


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