Questions You've Been Asking

Questions You've Been Asking

Here are two questions people keep asking us:

1. It looks like many homeowners are getting solar systems with storage or battery backup. Our system doesn’t have batteries. Can we add them now?

Adding batteries to most existing systems is no problem. The configuration we’d likely use is called AC Coupling, and it’s fully compatible with all kinds of systems from micro inverters like Enphase to string inverters like SMA. The technical working of this connection is pretty far into the weeds, but we’d be happy to discuss and provide a quote to anyone interested.

2. We’ve noticed solar co-ops springing up in Virginia and West Virginia, promoting 20-25% discounts (sometimes even more). Is that possible? Do you do co-ops?

Answering the last question first, while you should never say never, I will say it’s very unlikely we’ll ever bid on any co-op offerings. I used to think that co-ops were a good thing because they promoted the growth of solar to many more homes in an area. But now, based on some of the recent installer selections and on direct experiences with members of multiple co-ops, I have concerns – about the installer evaluation process, about member expectations management, about co-op members’ protections. So we’ll opt out for now.

One thing I know from having been in the solar business full-time for many years is this: No reputable installer can offer a 20% discount on a quality solar system and pay Community Power Network (CPN) a $600 fee per installation and make a fair profit. Real-world margins just aren’t that big. Believe me, I know.

So what you may get for your 20% discount is a 20% cheaper system, based on cheaper components, a new (and less qualified) installer looking for work, or cheap and unskilled labor. But that’s not a discount. It’s a cheaper system, and you get what you pay for.

As for the bulk discount, in my opinion that’s a fairy tale. Installers of any size already get best-tier prices from suppliers.

I always recommend that co-op folks get at least one alternate bid from someone besides the co-op committee’s selection. You’ve got nothing to lose, and when you compare apples-to-apples quotes, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Lots of Virginia and West Virginia families in co-op areas ended up liking our proposal better than the co-op installer’s proposal. Despite the supposed 20% discount, we’ve usually been more than price competitive. Not having to pay CPN $600 per job helps. So does the fact that we always show up with a very experienced, very professional crew, supervised by highly qualified people.