Eliminating the Risk of Solar Adoption
Thewidespread acceptance of solar energy will require the solar PV industry to mature to the level necessary for adoption amongst the entirepopulation, not just the early adopters and green enthusiasts.
There are several common concerns amongst current and potential solar buyers, more so for those population groups that are less inclined toadopt a new or unique technology (late adopters and laggards). Theseconcerns are mostly due to the lack of general information about solarenergy, including a lack of knowledge of laws and initiatives on boththe state and federal level that greatly mitigate the risk of goingsolar.
The following are some of the primary concerns commonly expressed bypotential solar adopters, excluding the most important factor in themajority of solar installations – financials.
Reliability of Solar Energy Providers
With well funded national solar integrators and well establishedlocal players, this is becoming less of a concern for potential solarbuyers. Further remedy to this issue involves better brand-buildingpractices by the major solar integrators to increase awareness andfamiliarity – establishing “brand names” that people will know andtrust.
Issues with Neighborhood Codes and Covenants
Many states now have laws prohibiting HOA’s from banning solarinstallations. However, the industry doesn’t have the resources to sueevery association who ignores this law. More importantly, solarintegrators don’t want to antagonize the very people they are trying toconvert to solar energy. Thus, integrators are reaching out to localneighborhood committees to inform, educate and quell concerns over solar in their communities.
Vulnerability of Solar to Weather Extremes
With manufacturers improving their cut sheets and marketing materials to list hail, fire, and wind ratings / capabilities – this is becomingless of an issue. Also, there are now several real-life examples ofsolar PV systems holding up in extreme weather (as with the tornado andhail storm that hit Windsor, CO in 2008).
Uncertainties about System Longevity
This is an ongoing concern, as there is no hard evidence of thelongevity or output reliability of solar energy installed today. In fact this information (outside of stress tests in laboratories) will not beavailable for a couple of decades. To address this, some solarintegrators have begun to offer production guarantees with their systems – compensating solar owners if their systems don’t perform tospecifications.
System Efficiency in Converting Sunlight to Electricity
The efficiency percentages of solar cells and panels themselves sound unimpressive to the lay person – 8%, 12%, even 20% sounds like a lowfigure. Integrators must put these numbers in perspective; they can’tlet potential customers get hung up on these percentages. Converting 12% of the sun’s energy, the cleanest and most abundant energy sourceavailable, is pretty darn good. The efficiency figures are only relevant when comparing different panels to each other, or when comparing to the efficiency of converting fossil fuels to electricity.
Health and Safety Concerns, During and After Installation
A most pressing concern is potential roof damage during systeminstallation. Nearly every potential solar homeowner expresses concernabout leaking and damage to the roof surface, especially on concrete and Spanish tile. Extended warranties on labor and reliable integratorshave been the solution to this issue.
The concern of vandalism and theft has risen drastically in light ofrecent news of stolen and defaced solar panels. There are severalcompanies with solutions for these concerns, with security systemsdesigned specifically for solar systems.
Maintenance and Warranty of a Solar Energy System
This is an issue that is being solved through comprehensive laborwarranty and maintenance programs offered through many solarintegrators. The extended solar panel and inverter warranties are alsovery comforting to solar adopters.
Technological Advancements in Solar
“With all the cool new technologies I keep hearing about, won’t mysystem become outdated technologically?” Or another one, “Won’t thesolar panel costs keep coming down? I hear that there are newtechnologies that will be 10% of the cost of what solar is today?” These are questions that come in nearly every day from people thinking ofgoing solar.
The answer to these questions vary, but center around the theme thatsolar is now – both financially and technologically. There are manypromises of better and cheaper solar panels in the near future, but thecurrent solar rebates and credits are likely much larger than thesepotential future savings on solar. The current US solar integratormarket is still in a shakeout, and still highly fragmented. This has led to solar installation prices dropping to drastically low levels. Thus,potential solar adopters can either take advantage of a subsidized,buyers market today, or gamble on the promises of ultra-cheap andultra-efficient solar of the future.
There are other concerns, but these are reoccurring issues frompotential solar adopters. With the US approaching 100,000 solarinstallations, the solar integrator industry is making great strides inaddressing these barriers for the many interested, but discerning, homeand business owners.
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