Many residential solar installation companies do not have a high-efficiency solar panel strategy other than offering a premium, high-efficiency panel that can be optionally installed at a higher system dollar per Watt price. This is understandable. Running a solar installation company requires sales and installs to be happening like clockwork, with little time left for detailed analysis of the benefit of high-efficiency panels.
However, in many cases a detailed high-efficiency solar panel strategy will help installers achieve their goals. In fact, the most important first step in developing a high-efficiency panel strategy is understanding the goals of the company. Once company goals have been determined, addressing the following questions will guide installers in identifying a high-efficiency module strategy that achieves their goals.
• What are system install costs and cost savings based on actual company financial numbers? Although many costs are similar between solar companies, there are several costs that can vary significantly depending on location, company strategy and management practices. An effective high-efficiency panel strategy requires an understanding of unique cost variations and their impact on cost savings with high-efficiency panels.
• What portion of installs are area-constrained? If the percentage is low, the economics of high-efficiency panels will be more challenging.
• What is the average system size of area-constrained systems being installed? The smaller these systems are on average, the more significant the installed cost per Watt savings will be.
• Can additional products be offered that electrifies other, non-electrical energy consumption? By electrifying energy consumption, the proportion of area-constrained installs will increase, resulting in a higher economic return for adopting high-efficiency panels.
• What is the price difference between standard panels and high-efficiency panels? Solar panel prices fluctuate up and down with industry supply and demand trends. Being aware of current pricing allows informed decisions to be made for high-efficiency panel strategies. This requires understanding what high-efficiency panels are currently commercially available or what may be available soon.
• Are customers aware of and interested in high-efficiency panels? Are they willing to pay a premium for them? Is it easier (i.e., less costly) to acquire customers with high-efficiency panels? Awareness of customer sentiment and market conditions in your location is crucial. Residential solar customers are typically less sophisticated than utility and commercial customers.
• As a high-efficiency panel strategy is implemented, average installed system size should increase. If it doesn’t, are there other external factors involved? For example, are sales and marketing efforts being focused on neighborhoods with smaller homes?
For more on the value of high-efficiency solar panels in residential applications, check out this research conducted by Nielson Scientific, NREL, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and ARPA-E.
— Solar Builder magazine