By Peter Cleveland, VP of EagleView Solar
Solar has a trust problem that is largely driven by inaccuracies in data: designs that are inaccurate, costs that are inaccurate, and forecasts that don’t prove to be true. Luckily, this problem is solvable.
Numerous other industries have coalesced around the need for standardized and accurate data. Among them are mapping, finance and telephone companies, to name just a few. One often cited and relatable example is consumer-facing: the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. In 1909, Good Housekeeping magazine established its seal. Products advertised in the magazine that bore the seal were tested by the publication and backed by a two-year limited warranty. To qualify, a product must pass a set of extensive evaluations and assessments. When the seal is awarded, customers and stores know that a product will withstand the test of time. As Good Housekeeping puts it, “We test it, so you can trust it.”
Trustworthy data helps everyone.
This is true in solar but was also true in roofing. EagleView helped solve the trust problem in roofing two decades ago. At that time, roofers were largely measuring roofs by hand, cataloging roof damage by hand, and then presenting reports to insurance carriers. The carriers would challenge the data wanting to re-measure and re-catalog damage on their own. The delta between the two measurements and damage scenarios would cause homeowners to throw up their hands. Sound familiar?
To resolve this distrust and reduce the excessive amount of work on behalf of both the roofer and the insurance carrier, EagleView created an independent system for measuring and categorizing roofing damage that did not have any inherent bias. This system then became a reliable resource for all three parties (including homeowners) to determine how to respond to storm damage.
The challenge in solar isn’t any different than the challenge in roofing. For solar, EagleView is again solving a data trust issue. The company’s focus is on delivering solar intelligence (more accurate roof measurements, shading analysis and the most effective tools for prediction) to ensure that homeowners, installers, financial institutions and regulatory bodies can understand the best path to solar for every individual home.
Why is this so fraught?
Failures to resolve trust within the solar industry will hamper the overall adoption of solar at a time when we can and must continue to expand. A study in China and the Netherlands concluded that “Higher trust and having influence over major decisions regarding the project led to higher project acceptability. Public acceptability was lowest when people had low trust in responsible agents and when people could only influence minor decisions regarding the project.”
Research from the Campaign for Accountability’s year-long investigation into two leading solar companies revealed that “Panelists from Consumers Union and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, for instance, discussed problems such as contracts that contain confusing wording about energy tax credits, consumers unable to sell or buy homes once solar panels have been installed, and promises of savings on utility bills that fail to materialize.”
To date, solar companies have ridden a profit boom where large-scale customer demand made ample opportunity for solar companies to scale without significantly seeking improvements. But, as more players enter the market, increased efficiency in marketing and performance will be necessary to retain high profit levels and constant customer inflow. Trustworthy data is the secret.
Improving data quality improves solar adoption. Improving data means fewer disagreements between solar installers and financers, homeowners and installers, and between solar installers and regulatory bodies. Improvements in those relationships diminish or permanently reduce the problems that currently stand in the way of installation or installation satisfaction.
How do we move forward as an industry?
I’m biased. I want the path forward to mean a universal adoption of EagleView’s data sets. But I’m not bull-headed. Any reliance on modern data-gathering tools and standardization will mean a giant step forward for the industry. We can do this, but the only way we can do it is together.
Pete began his solar career in 2010 where he initially focused on developing and implementing system design standards and processes, leveraging his previous experience in land surveying and heavy site construction. Before joining EagleView in 2018, Pete drove innovation and efficiencies with one of America’s largest EPCs by combining LEAN business practices with technology. Today, as the General Manager for EagleView’s solar business, Pete is continuing to pursue his passion of evolving the solar industry by applying technology to solve real world problems in an effort to deploy more solar for the benefit of society and our planet as a whole.