Biggest Headaches for Solar Contractors

Industry Issues

While solar’s steady growth in the US and around the world is being widely reported on, there reality on the ground continues to be filled with some significant obstacles.

Over 2016 I researched the solar industry and chatted with about forty rooftop solar contractors in the U.S. through emails and on the phone. I asked about the residential solar industry in general and about what was stressing them out the most. Here’s a roundup of the issues:


  1. Expensive, inconsistent and/or time-consuming permitting
  2. Good funding options for customers and installers
  3. Unsupportive or inconsistent government legislation
  4. Repressive or time-consuming utility policies
  5. Customer issues – no ability to vet the right customers that are ready to buy (i.e. have the money); many tend to just impulse buy; some just jump for the lowest price, regardless of quality of the company; many are misinformed or uneducated about it, so they’re skeptical
  6. Disruptive, unpredictable and inconsistent policies for incentives
  7. Staffing/recruiting – Bob Dewitz of American Electric for the Honolulu Advertiser said about staffing: “It’s one of the biggest challenges to support the growth and it’s requiring a huge investment on our part to sustain the quality of people we need to support the growth…[a shortage of qualified workers] is a result of a lack of people entering the field in general. We sort of failed to give value to the trades people in our society so a lot of young people don’t want to go into the trades, although it’s a very good living. They just don’t see it as being glamorous or a lifestyle career so there aren’t a lot of people going into trade and perhaps not the best and the brightest.”


  1. Regarding a low cost utility state without state incentives: “I spend way more time than I want on education, advocacy, lobbying and this pulls me from time I want to spend on sales and installations.”
  2. “Some of my competitors spend a million dollars on marketing but I’d like to keep marketing at less than 1% of revenue.”
  3. Regarding proposals: “It’s important to keep your proposals to two pages max – with an option to have a longer one if they request it. Otherwise the customer is overwhelmed and confused by its complexity.”
  4. On market size and growth: “Right now the solar industry has had a huge influx of new companies and the available market capacity is not big enough to support all the companies. The PV industry is in a challenging position. Most of the existing companies ramped up for growth in 2016 and in reality have seen the first quarter be off by up to 50% from 2015. For residential, cost of a lead is extraordinarily high and pricing pressure is intense. It will likely take until the 4th quarter of 2016 or even to the second quarter of 2017 for the market to return to a healthy condition for the surviving residential players.”


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