#SolarChat Focuses on Solar Financing, ROI and Customer Needs


Source: EcoOutfitters.net April 5, 2012

What happens when a group of solar installers from across the country get together to discuss how best to serve the solar market — with iStock_000009483467XSmall-300x225simplified proposals, easy-to-compare estimates, and pitches that really relate to what the customer wants?

If you read the recap of the most recent #SolarChat, held March 28, 2012, Solar PV Economics – Solar Financing: How, What & Why, you’ll see. The chat drew many industry heavy-hitters, including our experts panelists, Scott Gordon, senior vice president – sales of HelioPower, and Danny Kennedy, founder of Sungevity. We also had #SolarChat newcomers @TiogaEnergy and @TrinaSolarUS, along with notable solar media from Renewable Energy World and Greentech Media join us, and regulars like @YesSolarNC, @StreamlinerSolar, and @AztecSolarPwr.

Once again, we’re grateful for the opportunity to present #SolarChat, and appreciate all the industry members who join us in this effort. And, just as the chat benefits industry members focused on growing the proverbial solar pie, we also welcome solar homeowners and the solar-curious. You may learn something new about renewable energy or make just the connection you need for your own solar installation!

Discussing Dollars & (Solar Financing) Sense
Our most recent #SolarChat focused on various options for consumer financing of solar installations, including solar leasing and PPA. We talked about the costs of solar, leasing and purchase options for customers, and what the best price quotes for a solar installation may include.

Some of the talking points for industry professionals included:

  • How to keep solar estimates, quotes or proposals simple while providing the customer with the information they need
  • When it is better to offer lease vs. purchase vs. PPA
  • How installation timelines can affect ROI
  • How to standardize solar estimates so consumers can compare apples-to-apples
  • The key selling points of a solar installation

Scott Gordon addressed the question of simplifying solar estimates with the following tweets: “Too little leaves out cash price making price/watt comparisons difficult,” and “Too much is a 20+ page proposal that obfuscates critical consumer info, confuses the customer, and [leads] to a ‘no’ decision.”

When it comes down to selling specific solar systems, efficiency becomes a key factor, because the consumer cares about the return on their investment. As Sungevity’s Danny Kennedy noted, it’s a shame that there’s no easy way to calculate the health costs of energy derived from coal. When we compare the costs of conventional electric vs. renewable energy, it is easy (and important) to emphasize the impact of a solar installation on a home’s carbon footprint. Carbon emissions offset is a factor that can be easily worked into a proposal without confusing customers.

HIT Solar simplified the question of selling efficiency and quality to consumers, tweeting: “Present electric cost per month with and without solar. Also more efficient panels = less install costs so ROI even better!”

Pamela Cargill of Chaolysti, a solar consulting firm, reminded participants of the first rule of sales: Customers are interested in benefits and the end result. She noted, “Some would argue that modules and inverters are commodities and the energy production is more important to the customer.”

We agree that effective pitches must keep it simple and focus on the ROI.

Why People Go Solar: The Granite Effect
With the nuts and bolts of selling solar (and selling solar financing) out of the way, the topic shifted to a discussion of solar advocacy, circling back around to the four main reasons people go solar. LA Solar Systems, Inc. listed them concisely: 1.) Bottom line 2.) Go green 3.) Increase property value and 4.) Comfort.

But there’s another important and often overlooked) factor as well — Solar as technology, or the “coolness factor.” It’s true that most solar customers ask about the ROI (and you can get a good estimate of your own home’s ROI using our free solar calculator), but as Carter Lavin reminded us, “Solar isn’t a ‘nice-to-have’ luxury, it’s a wise investment. You gotta sell the savings + a touch of cool.”

Gordon jumped on the cool factor, comparing solar to granite countertops. Few people calculate the ROI on granite countertop, “they just want it,” he tweeted.

And that’s one of the exciting things about solar. There are so many reasons to want it, and the industry is truly focused on the needs and desires of consumers. If you’re shopping for a solar installation, it’s just a matter of connecting with the solar installer that best relates to you and offers the financing or payment options you need and want. They’re out there. If our most recent #SolarChat showed one thing, it’s that the industry really does care.