Category: Industry Issues

Predictions, Tips and Interviews

Article RoundupIndustry Issues

Below is a list of some relevant articles I’ve come across so far for Dec/Jan 2017:

The State of the Solar Industry

By David Brearley and Joe Schwartz (from SolarPro site)

The authors interview 9 movers and shakers in the solar industry on subjects ranging from policy wins and setbacks to the state of their particular organization and the international scene. Julia Hamm of SEPA talks about reprioritizing to be more in line with the changing face of the solar industry and Stephen Irvin of Amicus Solar Cooperative discussed the recent problems around EPC pricing and investor confidence and the creation of a Clean Energy Credit Union to help with financing. Rebekah Hren of NABCEP described the rise of the solar specialist while SEI’s Kathryn Swartz highlighted the impact of Elon Musk’s recent announcements about energy storage and roofing tiles.

As someone recently involved in designing software for the industry, I was particularly intrigued to read about The Solar Foundation’s push to help residential installers reduce soft costs.

Make the most of social media and digital marketing for your solar business

By Aimee Tuck of Corbae Creative and Glenna Wiseman of Identity3 (from Solar Power World site)

Tuck and Wiseman compile some solid tips for capitalizing on social media and digital marketing. They point to the need to reserve most of your content for your website (best place to capture those all important e-mails), discuss how to tap the gold mine of insights Google Analytics can offer and walk through how to engage with email marketing and platforms beyond Facebook.

One thing they don’t mention is Pinterest. The more I read about it as a burgeoning marketing tool and visual alternative to a Google search the more I think it is something to consider (particularly given that for folks who want to target women between the ages of 25-45, it could be particularly helpful).

10 Predictions for Rooftop Solar in 2017

By Barry Cinnamon (from the gtm site) Keep reading

Residential Solar Software Reviews Roundup

Industry IssuesSoftware

In their software solar contractors want things like accessibility, simple but customizable formatting, affordability and the option to opt out per month. Owners I talked to shared quite a bit about these criteria for the ideal apps for their day-to-day operations.

They also had some opinions about existing software that is specific to the solar industry. Here’s some info and feedback about some of the major players out there:


  • 3D design system, shading analysis, financial analysis and sales proposal generation
  • Feedback from business owners: “Doesn’t have customized quotes yet but does have versatility to customize” while another owner “found the remote evaluation valuable.”

Bright Harvest

  • Remote shading analysis and design
  • Review from one site of their service


  • DEMO
  • PV system design and evaluation
  • Business owner feedback: “High learning curve with a lot of steps, you need a draftsman to figure it out because a layperson would never be able to use it.”

EasySolar App

  • Design Platform and Mobile App

Clean Power Finance/Spruce

  • Bid building program
  • Business owner feedback: “Pretty much Excel with data mining features. Love it because it is simple to use and any employee can learn to use it easily. I’m able to manipulate it to meet the specific needs of my company.”

Periscope Keep reading

5 Reasons Solar Software is Painful for Contractors

Industry IssuesSoftware

Software can help streamline operations, lower acquisition costs and impact the bottom line. Or it can be something of a pain in the neck.

In my discussions with about forty U.S. rooftop solar contractors they shared how existing solar industry software was or wasn’t working for them.

Five insights about why it’s a pain:

  1. “We have software that does most things fairly well, but in islands (Salesforce, proposal, engineering, Quickbooks, utility). We have to enter the customer information at least 4 times.”
  2. “Top perceived problem in the industry is the need to take the entire process from raw lead to custom quote to building the system and streamline it. However, there are too many factors to do that and too many different platforms used by vendors you need to interact with.”
  3. “Creating design and survey software is hard because you really need to be on site to be sufficiently accurate and detailed regarding all the factors – assessing electrical info and the roof.”
  4. A lot of software out there is just too expensive for the smaller shops. Small installers can’t afford the cost of good software, so they end up doing things manually. One owner said, “If I have to have an extra installation each month just to cover software costs it is not worth it.”
  5. “We have a series of software products that meets our needs well. The real issue is not the nature of the software itself – like a CRM – it’s getting the employees to update the info regularly and when needed. This need to stay on top of software updating is a constant conversation in meetings.”


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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.”


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