When a homeowner or installer starts work on a solar PV system, they often begin by wading through a sea of PV manufacturers, technical data sheets, marketing materials and new technologies. Tradeshows with flashing lights and marketing jargon like “bankability” make for a great show, but what’s most important for solar professionals to know is that they are purchasing a quality product with a reliable warranty. This is where distributors come in. Solar distributors can serve as objective sources of product information to ensure solar professionals are using the right product for the right job.
With more than 300 solar panel manufacturers on the market and half of them expected to go out of business by 2015, distributors have to choose their product line carefully. Today’s solar distributors do their research and meticulously perform the due diligence required to ensure each manufacturer on the market lasts as long as their installations.
Though distributors offer different varieties of products, brands and services, their mission statements are generally quite similar: Helping installers get the job done right. Today’s solar distributors have knowledgeable technical sales representatives, engineering services, educational resources and financing options to help solar professionals even before the first panel is installed.
Many solar distributors have technical sales representatives who can provide engineering, product selection and design support on a range of products from installation to commissioning. With so many products and technologies to choose from, technical sales representatives who know each product inside and out can steer installers toward the right one, saving precious time and money.
Many distributors today also offer engineering services including site planning, roof diagramming and structural engineering wet stamps in all 50 states. This helps ensure each installation passes permitting and inspection as quickly and smoothly as possible. When time is money, redesigning or reinstalling can drain on resources. Distributors can also help during installation with online or phone technical support to aid in troubleshooting.
A good installer has to keep abreast of changing product lines and technologies. In a hyper-competitive market like solar PV, it’s important for solar professionals to keep their skills up-to-date. Many solar distributors offer such help with design, sales and technical training. Many times, technical training is conducted by a distributor’s manufacturer-partner, giving solar installers low or no cost hands-on practice with each product.
Solar financing innovation has helped to bring solar to the masses in many different markets. However, many small to medium-sized installers can feel overwhelmed by all of the choices and competition that exists within this market. Solar distributors have many different options that can help their installers find the right option for their customers and help them compete in this ever-changing environment.
By Geoff Stenrick, president/CEO of SimpleRay Solar