Renewable energy sources are unquestionably the future, and each year, more and more homeowners and companies opt to make use of the energy nature provides us for free. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, solar power has enjoyed an average annual growth rate of 49% each year from 2010 to 2020. Unsurprisingly, the number of solar jobs in the U.S. has doubled since 2012, as new businesses open to meet the accelerating demand for equipment and service.
Opening a solar business is not as simple as hanging a shingle and waiting for the money to roll in. If you’re looking to get into solar, or any form of renewable energy, there are some important factors to consider upfront, not the least of which are the type of solar business you want to run, and what education and training you’ll need to operate legally and successfully. The following is a basic primer on those two factors, outlining your options for getting into the industry and some of the requirements you can expect to meet on or before day one.
1) Decide What Type of Solar Business You’ll Operate
The solar industry as a whole represents a great way to seize an ever-growing opportunity and help the planet at the same time, but there are many ways to get in the game, each with its own entry path, barriers, and requirements. It’s important you have a clear understanding of how you want to get involved with solar to ensure proper planning and profitable execution when it’s finally time to open your doors.
Solar equipment manufacturing represents the most difficult, but arguably the most exciting area in the solar energy field. Manufacturing requires huge capital investments and equally deep pockets for research and development – major barriers to entry. On the other hand, manufacturing is where innovation happens in the industry, and if you’re looking to change the world, innovation is the way to do it.
If you’re not looking to start designing and building your own solar technology, equipment sales might be the path for you. Solar equipment wholesalers and retailers sell the photovoltaic panels that underpin solar power generation, as well as a host of complementary products like inverters, batteries, mounting hardware, and more. Equipment sales is arguably the route with the lowest barriers to entry, as all you’ll need to get started is a supplier and an Amazon store or website and a way to reach your target customers.
Solar installers do the actual work of hooking up and maintaining residential and commercial solar projects, putting them on the front lines of solar power generation. As solar equipment prices fall with improving efficiency and better manufacturing practices, installations represent a way to keep profits steady, but it’s a work-intensive business that involves altering houses and commercial buildings, meaning it can’t be taken lightly.
The vast majority of new solar businesses focus on a mix of equipment sales and installations, either with an in-house installation team or through the use of contractors. A mixed model also allows you to offer consulting services that will unlock larger contracts with commercial customers – a key market.
2) Figure Out What Solar Education, Credentials, or Certifications You’ll Need
Solar power is exciting, and it’s easy to want to dive in headfirst, but solar equipment is complex and understanding the way it interacts with commercial and residential power systems requires education at a minimum and, in many cases, proper licensing. Once you’ve decided which type of solar business you’re going to start, it’s crucial to figure out what’s required of you to ensure both the best results for your customers and the safety of your business and personal finances.
The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) offers U.S. based certification programs in both photovoltaics and solar heating. NABCEP certifications are designed to provide the knowledge and skills necessary to provide solar solutions and manage solar projects in North America. Regardless of what route you’re taking into the solar industry, NABCEP certification is a great place to start and ensures you’ll have a strong foundational understanding of the systems and technology involved in solar energy production.
If you’re going into solar installations, you’ll need to look seriously into the licensing requirements in your state or municipality. If you’re going to perform the installations yourself, you’ll need to be a licensed electrician at the very least, since you’ll be materially altering the wiring systems in buildings. Solar installations also generally require building permits, which means you may need to either be or engage with a general contractor or an engineer for everything from plans to environmental assessments and more. Performing installations without proper licensing or permits represents a huge risk, so make sure everything is in order and you know what’s legally required of you before you open your doors. Your local city council’s planning office is a great place to start, and talking to a lawyer is always recommended.
3) Leverage Tech to Generate a Competitive Solar Advantage
Once you’ve chosen a sector and you and your staff are properly trained up and certified, the unfortunate reality is that you’ll inevitably find yourself operating in an incredibly competitive market that, while rife with opportunity, is going to challenge you, especially at the beginning. That makes finding any advantage you can crucial to carving market share away from your established competition, and the best place to start looking for those advantages is technology.
One of the more impactful pieces of technology you can employ in your new business is a solar customer resource management platform. Solar CRMs, like CRMDialer, are designed to centralize and automate as much of your customer acquisition and service operations as possible. They enable you to keep a steadier flow of leads coming in the top of your sales funnel, convert more of those leads into paying customers, and offer better ongoing service, support, and relationship building – all while minimizing repetitive work and freeing up time and resources.
To see how an advanced CRM can supercharge your new solar company’s sales efforts through automation, centralization, and better use of customer data, start your no-commitment free trial of CRMDialer today.