Solar thermal, solar hot water, solar hot air, solar heating, solar cooling
The beginning of 2012 is here and the lookout is bright for renewable energy. There are some roadblocks ahead and some barriers we cannot yet see that will become clear. Overall, the renewable energy industries are becoming a force to be reckoned with.
Here are the 7 trends and areas we’re watching closely in 2012. Each will have an impact on the ability of small companies to make money. Please take time to skim the list, provide feedback and pick out what pertains to your company and your situation. These will be the prevailing topics, trends, and themes that HeatSpring will cover going in to 2012.
1. Increased regulation and credentials.
The rapid growth of the renewable energy industry has increased credentials manufacturers, property owners and local AJHs are looking to minimize risk. Here are the big items we see coming that will impact your businesses.
Fire Safety Training and Regulation. Local fire AHJ’s are becoming much more meticulous around permitting roof mounted solar PV arrays. Two items are causing AHJ’s to pay more attention to solar permitting and will require more diligence from integrators. First, a few high profile fires caused by solar arrays. Second, roof access requirements in case of a fire. A specific credential has not yet been released, nor have any additional regulations, but local fire departments are becoming more aware and better trained. For this reason, the Solar Energy Business Association of New England is hosting a Solar PV Systems and Fire Safety Event in February for their members and the public.
A New Commercial Roofing Certification. Expect an increase demand for the RISE Certification on commercial solar RFPs and projects. The certification is specifically for roofing contractors and professionals who will be working on commercial solar projects in order to make sure the existing roofing warranty is not voided. The rapid growth in the solar industry and a number of voided roof warranties due to solar installations, has caught the attention of national roofing manufacturers. Through the National Roofing Contractors Association and the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing, the RISE Certification has been created.
New Solar Thermal Credentials. The quick growth of the solar thermal industry has increased the demand for trained professionals. NABCEP has created a new entry-level solar thermal certification for new comers to the industry. If you’re a job hunter looking to get the certification, here is NABCEP’s list of approved providers.
As the geothermal industry grows, so do the relevance of two relatively new credentials. The IGSHPA Driller Certification and the Certified GeoExchange Designer certification. The main questions we’ve been answering about the new certification are the difference between the IGSHPA Installer and Driller certification and who should attend the designer certification. Especially with the Certified GeoExchange Designer, be prepared to start seeing requirements for these certifications on public and large private RPFs.
Is the Solar PV industry still lacking trained electricians?
Is there too much credentialing happening or will it increase the quality and technical ability of the industry?
Q+A with Solar Thermal Expert Bob Ramlow: Hard Water Issues, PV Powered Solar Thermal and Air Venting
Bob Ramlow answers student questions about solar thermal. He tackles hard water, PV powered solar thermal systems, and best practices for air vent installations.
Is hard water an issue with closed loop solar thermal systems?
Are solar PV powered solar thermal systems cheaper and easier to operate then traditional powered ones?
What are the best practices for placement of automatic air vents in solar thermal systems?
Why? A few reasons:
I’d argue too many people are looking at solar pv and it’s becoming more competitive. Just look at how many solar pv installers there are in Massachusetts, there’s around 50. This number is increasing as more and more tradespeople and leasing companies are getting into the game. Given the Massachusetts SREC market is structured to create 30% growth every year, it’s clear why so many companies are focusing on this.
Solar thermal can be used for space heating, and solar cooling technology is coming online. These applications will make it extremely attractive.
In Massachusetts, solar thermal receives great incentives, which only improve already good financials. For example, in Massachusetts you can receive up to $10k for a site evaluation and another $25k (for private) or $30k (for public) – see details under construction grants here – rebate for the installation, given the client meets a few criteria.
I think there are 7 national trends happening that are really favorable to solar thermal. Read the 7 Ways The Solar Thermal Industry is Laying the Foundation for Solid Growth, to read more including current bottlenecks in the industry.
I’m no genius, but if I wanted to make some cash in solar thermal, here is what I would do.
What strikes me most about renewable energy websites is how much companies tend to to talk about themselves and the technology and not about what the customer actually cares about. Actually, let me rephrase this, what “mainstream customers” care about. For this, we need a little review of the difference between “early adopters” and “mainstream” customers and how that is impacting the renewable energy industry.
In the last post, we discussed “the sales equation” that every solar company should maximize. As a reminder, here is the equation (Note, for this article the questions are applicable to both solar and geothermal companies):
“The Sales Equation” = High Gross Margin * Project Closes Quickly / Marketing Dollars Spent
There are 3 variables to the equation, two of them have to do with your marketing activities. Specifically, selecting the right customers. You can influence how fast projects close and spending the least marketing dollars by selecting the correct customers. Yes, you heard correctly, all customers are not created equal. Money is not money. High gross margins on a project and marketing dollars spent on a lead have a large overlap. The jobs with the highest margin are likely the ones that are managed the best from an operations perspective. Well run jobs are also the ones that tends to lead to the most referrals, and these are the cheapest leads.
In a future post we will discuss strategies on the best ways to create referral business from a project. For now, back to selecting the right customers. You need to find leads that are the cheapest, and that will close the fastest. These are highly qualified leads.
What does a highly qualified lead look like? These will apply to both solar and geothermal projects. They can take many forms, but it’s likely they’ll meet many of the following criteria: