Commercial Solar Installer

Commercial Solar Installer

When it comes to finding a reputable solar PV installer, it’s a good idea to stick with the old adage, “buyer beware.” Fortunately, there are a few things businesses can look for to help them in their installer search, like seeking referrals from previous customers, checking with the Better Business Bureau, investigating the installer’s workers’ compensation history, and listening to plain old word-of-mouth. First and foremost, though, is to confirm the state license status of any installer under consideration, which requires contacting the appropriate state’s licensing agency. You can use the map directly below to link to the licensing agency in your state. Find more here.

A couple of things to keep in mind. First, it is important to understand that every state’s licensing of solar installers is different. Be sure to find out exactly what license designation, if any, is required in your state for commercial-scale solar PV installation. Second: Never simply take a contractor’s word that his or her license is in good standing. Always confirm it yourself.
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Bret Biggart
Expert
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A great place to start learning about commercial-scale solar energy is by talking to a professional solar installer. This guide is designed to help you find experienced, competent and trustworthy installers in your area, and to know just what you should expect from them when they assess your business’s energy needs and solar potential.
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How to Choose a Solar Panel Installer
Find Solar Installers in Your State
How to Write a Request for Proposal for a Solar Installation
How to Find Out If a Contractor Has the Right State Licenses
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What to Expect From Your Commercial Solar Installer
For commercial projects, the value proposition revolves around the return on investment, less so on the technology. I think most people are comfortable with the technology. We want to get them really comfortable with the savings that are going to be generated.– BRET BIGGART As a business person, you know the importance of quality workmanship, both in the products and services you produce as well as the ones you purchase. Here’s a look at what you should expect a quality professional solar installer to help you to do:
Establish electrical load analysis Items in one’s home or business that use electricity are called “loads”. These loads need to be measured in a practical way in order to determine the size and cost of a potential solar PV system. If a business is currently connected to a utility grid, then it already has access to load data via its electricity bill. A competent installer should be able to take that data and supplement it with data from his or her own inspection to provide the customer with an accurate electrical load assessment.Determine the appropriate type(s) of solar panels There are numerous factors to consider when choosing the right solar panels for a particular project, including size, cost, electricity generation per panel, manufacturer and warranty. A quality installer can calculate the number of panels needed and choose from among several reputable panel manufacturers to determine the right ones for the job.Determine the solar PV system’s overall size Variables considered in sizing up a commercial solar system include: current load requirements; roof design and overall space available for panel placement; power generation potential; and projected system efficiency. A business’s short- and long-term goals are also important factors. An installer will take into account all of these variables and more in determining a project’s overall size.Decide on the proper inverter and other required equipment Solar PV systems require inverters, which are the devices that “invert” the direct current (DC) generated by the system’s solar panels into alternating current (AC) that can then be used to supply your business’s electrical needs. Other required equipment includes cables, batteries, charge controllers, meters and more.Determine proper location and placement of solar panels With solar panels, efficiency is key, and proper location and placement are essential to solar panel efficiency. Variables here include direction, tilt, shade, temperature, damage and maintenance concerns (due to harsh weather, interference from people and wildlife, etc.) legal restrictions, and others. Even aesthetics can play a role in the location and placement of panels. An experienced installer will consider all of these factors in his or her assessment.Determine what building surveys are needed Another important factor in assessing a commercial site for solar PV is the business’s buildings themselves. An installer must carefully assess building structure, accessibility and more to determine whether any issues exist regarding increased load-bearing on roofs, etc. Any structural issues must also be analyzed in light of applicable state and local building regulations.Provide a realistic estimate of expected system performance and efficiency Many business owners start out with very little knowledge about how solar PV systems work and what can reasonably be expected from a system in terms of overall performance. Competent, professional installers will be able to provide prospective customers with an accurate estimate of their property’s solar power and return on investment potential.
You can’t just open up a car lot and start selling Mercedes. You’ve got to be vetted out by Mercedes first. The same principle applies to solar installers. The higher the quality of product offerings, the better the installation company because that means they have been vetted out by the vendor.– BRET BIGGART The Commercial Solar Site Assessment: Call for RFPs After a business has done its initial research and hopefully received site assessments from a number of reputable installers, it’s time to decide if going solar is the right choice. If the answer is “yes”, then the next step is to put out a call for requests for proposals, or RFPs. Here’s what to expect from the RFP process:
What is an RFP?
A request for proposal (RFP) is the term for the form and process employed by a business, or other entity, to obtain goods or services needed in the course of business. In this case, the service sought is the purchase and installation of a solar PV system. In other words, the RFP is a solicitation, or call out, for solar installers to bid for the business’s solar PV project. There are a number of basic steps making up the RFP process that every business should complete in order to feel confident that it has chosen the right installer for the project. Other steps may also apply depending on the nature of the contracting business and details of the specific project. Here are the basic steps:
1
Write and Issue the RFP
The RFP is a written document that should include all of the essential information that the bidder will need to provide a detailed and accurate bid. The elements of an effective RFP are discussed below. Once it is written, the contracting business issues, or sends out, the RFP to potential bidders. While some entities, such as government agencies, may be required to put out an RFP to any and all potential bidders, private businesses are free to put out their RFPs to bidders of their choosing.

Elements of RFP
The elements of the written RFP will vary depending on the specifics of the project. However, there are several elements that all RFPs will likely need to include, such as contact information for the contracting company and return of bids; all specifics of the project (size, site information, building(s) structure description; energy load data, expected outcomes, etc.); site visit information; proposed time schedule; essential contract terms and deadline for return of bids.

RFP language should make clear all of the requirements that must be met (and evidenced in writing in the bid) by the potential bidder in order to qualify for the project. Crucial requirements to include in an RFP:

Designate that the bidding installer is responsible for obtaining all required permits, interconnection agreements, and other regulatory approvals.Copies of all applicable county or city ordinances or regulatory requirements, detailed information on local permitting practices, and permit application forms.Require the bidder to include in its bid a statement of its experience and qualifications. (e.g. completed past projects, reference letters, training, licenses, and certifications, etc.)Require that all equipment used in the project meet applicable product codes and/or standards.Require the bidder include a timeline of major project milestones, against which progress can be measured.Require the installed system meet both national and international building and electric codes (as they apply).Require the bidder include all applicable warranty information.Include in the bid any applicable labor and resourcing requirements as stated in the RFP.If the contracting business will assume system operation responsibilities, include the requirement that the successful bidder either hold training sessions for the business’s maintenance staff and/or provide system O&M manuals.If the system will be owned by a third party (i.e., not the contracting business) through a lease or PPA, then the RFP should include a provision that the bidder provide a performance monitoring program in its bid.Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL): State & Local Governments – Solar Requests for Proposals2
Arrange for potential bidders to conduct a site visit
A site visit by a potential bidder is crucial to provide an accurate bid. Details of the visit are normally laid out in the RFP. In some cases, a site visit may be unnecessary if the potential bidder has already visited the site and conducted a detailed site assessment.

During the site visit, an evaluation team from the proposed bidder will: Survey the project site.Compare what it finds with the information provided in the RFP and/or other solicitation documents.Ask questions to clarify any doubts or issues it may have.The evaluation team will then incorporate its site visit findings into the bidder’s formal written bid.3
Review written bids and select winning installer
Once all written bids are received, it is extremely important that the contracting business goes over each bid carefully to make sure it understands every detail of the bidding installer’s proposals. That’s because, unless clearly stated otherwise, by accepting an installer’s bid, the contracting business enters into a contract with the installer to do the job.

One of the most important questions for a customer to ask is, “Who is going to do the actual installation of the project?” Is the company that’s pitching the solution also providing the solution, or are they subcontracting the work out? That’s a big one. There’s a significant amount of risk for the consumer in cases like that because then who’s responsible for warranty on the work?– BRET BIGGART Know the Code: Check Your Commercial Solar Installer’s License (really!)
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When it comes to finding a reputable solar PV installer, it’s a good idea to stick with the old adage, “buyer beware.” Fortunately, there are a few things businesses can look for to help them in their installer search, like seeking referrals from previous customers, checking with the Better Business Bureau, investigating the installer’s workers’ compensation history, and listening to plain old word-of-mouth. First and foremost, though, is to confirm the state license status of any installer under consideration, which requires contacting the appropriate state’s licensing agency. You can use the map directly below to link to the licensing agency in your state.

A couple of things to keep in mind. First, it is important to understand that every state’s licensing of solar installers is different. Be sure to find out exactly what license designation, if any, is required in your state for commercial-scale solar PV installation. Second: Never simply take a contractor’s word that his or her license is in good standing. Always confirm it yourself.

State License Information and Links
Source: Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Solar Licensing DatabaseAccidents Happen: Verify Commercial Solar Installer’s Insurance Never hire a solar PV contractor or installer without proof of current contractor’s insurance. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Without it, the contracting business, and possibly the business owners themselves, may be liable for money damages resulting from an accident during the installation process. Specific legal requirements regarding contractor’s insurance vary by state, but generally speaking, having both contractor’s general liability and workers’ compensation policies in effect during solar system installation is crucial.

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