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Inside Clean Energy: Sunrun and Vivint Form New Solar Goliath, Leaving Tesla…

Inside Clean Energy: Sunrun and Vivint Form New Solar Goliath, Leaving Tesla…

    Vivint Solar Inc. Is Headed in the Right Direction in 2018

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    NYSE: VSLR

    Market trends should work favorably for Vivint Solar Inc. this year.

    Vivint Solar Inc. (VSLR) is going through the biggest transition of its short life as a company, changing from a FOCUS on solar leases to an increasing percentage of solar system sales. The move differentiates it from residential solar market leader Sunrun, and it should reduce Vivint Solar’s financial risk.

    Recently released fourth-quarter results show some of the progress Vivint Solar is making in building a new, more profitable business model. Here are the highlights from the quarter.

    Image source: Getty Images.

    Growth in all the right places

    Installations for Vivint Solar have been essentially flat the last five quarters, and they were down slightly from 47.1 MW in the fourth quarter of 2016 to 44.6 MW in Q4 2017. What’s notable about the chart below is that system sales rose from 7.3 MW to 11.7 MW, and leases dropped from 39.8 MW to 32.9 MW.

    Image source: Vivint Solar.

    Overall, revenue was up 60% in the quarter to 66.8 million, highlighted by a 116% jump in solar system revenue to 35.6 million. Gross margin on those sales also increased from 24% to 29%, an impressive expansion of margins. Given upcoming solar tariffs, it’s likely margins will be squeezed slightly in 2018, but a gross margin in the mid-20s is impressive nonetheless.

    On top of the growth in system sales, operating expenses were down 4.6% to 30.6 million in the quarter. Operating expenses like sales and marketing have long been a thorn in the side of residential solar companies, because once early adopters have installed solar, making incremental sales becomes more expensive. The fact that operating expenses are trending lower is a good sign overall.

    What does the future look like for Vivint Solar?

    If we take the revenue per watt of 3.04 from system sales, and project it across all installations, the company has the potential for about 135.7 million in revenue from 44.6 MW of installations. Assuming a 29% gross margin, gross income would be about 39 million.

    That’s barely enough to cover the 30.6 million in operating expenses Vivint Solar had last quarter, but you can see where the company is going. If gross margin creeps slightly higher and operating expenses continue to trend lower, Vivint Solar can be solidly profitable given its current level of installations per quarter.

    On top of solar systems, Vivint Solar should start to see more energy-storage sales in 2018. This will bring incrementally more revenue and margin per sale, and any growth that leverages existing expenses would also help increment profit.

    Headed in the right direction

    I think residential solar installers that are transitioning to system sales are making the right move, offloading the interest rate and default risk that have plagued them in the past. The strategy is starting to pay off in Vivint Solar’s financials and if the trend continues the company could be a long-term winner for investors. But there’s a long road ahead and a fast-moving solar market, so keep an eye on revenue and margin trends in 2018.

    Travis Hoium has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

    The joining of the two companies could reshape the industry, which still accounts for energy production in only 3% of U.S. households.

    Inside Clean Energy: Rooftop Solar Wins Big in Kansas Court Ruling

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    Monday night is not a time when I expect to see news that could reshape an entire industry, but that’s what happened this week when Sunrun, the leading rooftop solar company in the United States, announced it was buying Vivint Solar, the second-leading solar company.

    Sunrun, based in San Francisco, will become the Goliath of rooftop solar at a time when the industry is struggling to sell its services amid the coronavirus.

    “We had known about some murmuring of Vivint being sold, being shopped around, but I don’t think any of us really anticipated that the buyer would be another residential solar company and largest residential solar company,” said Bryan White, an analyst for Wood Mackenzie. “It has been a surprising turn of events.”

    Sunrun has an agreement to acquire Vivint in an all-stock deal worth 3.2 billion, subject to approval by shareholders and regulators. The combined company would have a customer base of about 500,000 and a value of 9.2 billion.

    When the top two competitors in any industry join forces, I expect the third-place player to be listening to sad music and feeling generally glum.

    But this is different because the third-place company is Tesla, a business that mainly sells cars and has the resources to be a much larger player in rooftop solar if it can figure out how to revitalize that side of the company.

    Tesla’s SolarCity subsidiary was the national leader in rooftop solar as recently as 2017, but it pulled back on its sales outreach and got passed by Sunrun in 2018 and then Vivint in 2019.

    But Tesla is not simply a rival for the new, super-sized Sunrun. Tesla also is an important supplier for Sunrun, part of a partnership in which Sunrun sells Tesla’s Powerwall battery storage systems.

    “I don’t think Tesla cares much about what its competitors are doing,” White said. “I don’t think they need to.”

    clean, energy, sunrun, vivint, form

    Vivint, founded in 2011 and based near Salt Lake City, became a solar leader through the use of door-to-door sales and an emphasis on leasing its products. Leasing has the advantage of lower upfront costs, which expands the pool of customers who can afford solar.

    Sunrun, founded in 2007, also has relied on leasing, but it has not used door-to-door sales to the extent that Vivint has.

    The two companies have grown to cover nearly every state that has a large market for rooftop solar. They now operate in 22 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, footprints that are almost identical except that Sunrun is in Wisconsin, while Vivint isn’t, and Vivint is in Virginia, while Sunrun isn’t.

    Lynn Jurich, Sunrun’s co-founder and CEO, said in a letter to customers that the acquisition of Vivint is a “transformational opportunity to bring cleaner, affordable energy to more homes and accelerate our mission to create a planet run by the sun.”

    There is lots of room to grow. As Sunrun notes in the news release announcing the deal, rooftop solar has only reached about 3 percent of U.S. households.

    A Tesla Short(s) Sale? Yes, and in Red Satin

    Tesla probably isn’t worried about Sunrun buying Vivint, because it has plenty of its own developments to celebrate.

    The company’s market value is surging, despite those who bet against it. Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder and CEO, mocked the doubters earlier this week by tweeting about a new product for sale on Tesla’s website: Tesla-branded short shorts, with a purchase price of “69.420” (not a typo).

    “Celebrate summer with Tesla Short Shorts,” the website says. “Run like the wind or entertain like Liberace with our red satin and gold trim design. Relax poolside or lounge indoors year-round with our limited-edition Tesla Short Shorts, featuring our signature Tesla logo in front with “S3XY” across the back. Enjoy exceptional comfort from the closing bell.”

    The shorts appear to have sold out quickly.

    In Tesla’s world, “short shorts” is a reference to Musk’s battles with short sellers, investors who aim to profit by placing financial bets that a stock will lose value. Musk has mocked short sellers and vowed to prove them wrong in their view of the company.

    For now, Tesla’s share price is crushing the short sellers, but Tesla has a long way to go in managing its global expansion and fulfilling its huge potential.

    “You have to give Elon massive credit,” said Karl Brauer, executive publisher for AutoTrader.com and Kelley Blue Book. “He has, in his own creative, unique way, shepherded this company.”

    In the last month, Tesla’s market capitalization has grown enough that it has become the most valuable automaker in the world, passing Toyota.

    But that’s just the start. Last week, Tesla reported vehicle sales that exceeded analysts’ expectations, and investors responded by buying shares. The company’s share price went from 960 on June 26 to 1,405 on Wednesday morning, an eye-popping increase of about 45 percent.

    Based on the current share price and the number of outstanding shares, Tesla is worth about 260 billion.

    The value has grown so much in just a few weeks that it has left Toyota far behind, with Toyota worth 174 billion.

    Tesla’s market value is based not on current sales or profit but on the idea that the company is poised to become the leader of the auto market of the future.

    “You can’t really compare its value to automakers anymore,” said Brauer about Tesla. “You have to compare it to tech companies.”

    Toyota sold 10.7 million vehicles worldwide last year, while Tesla sold 367,500. The global sales leader was Volkswagen, with 10.9 million.

    To underscore how market value is disconnected from present-day performance, Volkswagen’s market value is about 70 billion, less than half of Toyota’s and less than one-third of Tesla’s.

    A ‘Virtual Power Plant’ Is Coming to Oregon. So What Is That?

    Portland General Electric is the latest utility to announce a virtual power plant, which provides me with an opportunity to geek out over the possibility of this kind of technology one day being deployed on a large scale.

    So what is a virtual power plant? It’s a system in which utilities combine the power of many batteries installed in homes and businesses, making it so the batteries collectively can send power back out to the grid during times of high demand. Often, this power comes from rooftop solar that consumers are using in tandem with their batteries.

    The key element is software that coordinates the use of the batteries.

    The individual owners of the batteries can decide if they want to be part of this, and they get paid for selling their electricity. They also get the benefits of having batteries, such as backup power during outages.

    Portland General Electric said last week that it is conducting a pilot project to provide incentives for 525 households to receive the batteries, adding up to 4 megawatts of capacity. Larry Bekkedahl, a vice president for the utility, said the project is an example of how the company is increasingly using “creative partnerships and diversified energy resources.”

    There are dozens of virtual power plant demonstration projects across the country. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory issued a report in 2018 about the 23 projects that were around at that time, finding a growing potential for this method of making many small systems work together for the greater good.

    “There is a big opportunity for these to serve the grid in a big way,” said Jeff Cook, an analyst at the lab who was lead author of the report.

    He told me that the continuing trend of utilities making their first forays into virtual power plants is a step toward this being done, potentially, on a much larger scale.

    I find this an intriguing possibility because it reduces the need to build power plants, and points to decentralization of the way we produce and consume electricity in the future.

    Offshore Wind Is Coming to California—Very Slowly

    Despite California’s leadership in the clean energy sector, its offshore wind industry has been slow to develop.

    The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, has been working on identifying potential sites for offshore wind in California for years, but the Department of Defense consistently challenges these siting plans, arguing that the turbines could interfere with military exercises.

    On July 1, the California Energy Commission held a virtual workshop to inform the public about the current status of offshore wind in California and solicit feedback on proposed sites near Morro Bay.

    The Department of Defense isn’t the only obstacle to offshore wind in the state. The physical landscape is challenging, with a deep sea floor that requires the construction of floating wind turbines as opposed to turbines that can be bolted to the sea bottom in shallower waters. And most of the federal waters off of California with wind speeds suitable for turbines are part of national marine sanctuaries.

    BOEM previously identified three small areas along the California coast, each located about 20 miles offshore, that are not automatically disqualified by limitations on wind speed and water depth or by sanctuary status.

    In 2018, the Department of Defense declared that the two potential sites in Central California—labeled by the department “Morro Bay” and “Diablo Canyon”—would be incompatible with its operations, forcing the Energy Commission to rethink its plans.

    Since then, a working group of state and federal officials has identified three other possible areas for development near or partly overlapping with the initially proposed area of the Morro Bay site.

    Two of those areas, labeled “North” and “South,” are spots where turbines could be placed without directly interfering with Department of Defense operations. The third, labeled “Discussion Area,” is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Right now, BOEM doesn’t have permission to lease the discussion area, but it is including the space in early siting conversations as it gauges public opinion and evaluates the turbines’ potential impacts on wildlife, fisheries and shipping.

    The farther offshore that turbines are sited, the smaller their environmental and human impacts are expected to be.

    “These will be long-term energy projects and we want to ensure that we site them as well as possible, because we will be living with them for a long time,” said Jean Thurston-Keller, BOEM task force coordinator, during the workshop.

    Several public Комментарии и мнения владельцев, submitted after the workshop, expressed concerns about the visibility of the turbines from shore. One commenter equated offshore wind in the Big Sur region with installing a solar farm on the pyramids at Giza.

    Tom Hafer, president of the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization, wrote in a public comment that the fishing industry has “grave concerns that need to be addressed.”

    The fact that officials held this workshop is a sign of progress, but don’t expect anything to happen quickly. Officials will need to approve sites for development before beginning the evaluation process for the projects themselves.

    Developers are much deeper into work on projects along the East Coast, but offshore wind on the West Coast may be worth the wait. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory found substantial potential for offshore wind energy and jobs in the region.

    Reporter Nicole Pollack contributed to this story.

    Inside Clean Energy is ICN’s weekly bulletin of news and analysis about the energy transition. Send news tips and questions to dan.gearino@insideclimatenews.org.

    Clean Energy Reporter, Midwest, National Environment Reporting Network

    Dan Gearino covers the midwestern United States, part of ICN’s National Environment Reporting Network. His coverage deals with the business side of the clean-energy transition and he writes ICN’s Inside Clean Energy newsletter. He came to ICN in 2018 after a nine-year tenure at The Columbus Dispatch, where he covered the business of energy. Before that, he covered politics and business in Iowa and in New Hampshire. He grew up in Warren County, Iowa, just south of Des Moines, and lives in Columbus, Ohio.

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    Vivint Solar Inc. Is Headed in the Right Direction in 2018

    You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn

    NYSE: VSLR

    Market trends should work favorably for Vivint Solar Inc. this year.

    Vivint Solar Inc. (VSLR) is going through the biggest transition of its short life as a company, changing from a FOCUS on solar leases to an increasing percentage of solar system sales. The move differentiates it from residential solar market leader Sunrun, and it should reduce Vivint Solar’s financial risk.

    clean, energy, sunrun, vivint, form

    Recently released fourth-quarter results show some of the progress Vivint Solar is making in building a new, more profitable business model. Here are the highlights from the quarter.

    Image source: Getty Images.

    Growth in all the right places

    Installations for Vivint Solar have been essentially flat the last five quarters, and they were down slightly from 47.1 MW in the fourth quarter of 2016 to 44.6 MW in Q4 2017. What’s notable about the chart below is that system sales rose from 7.3 MW to 11.7 MW, and leases dropped from 39.8 MW to 32.9 MW.

    Image source: Vivint Solar.

    Overall, revenue was up 60% in the quarter to 66.8 million, highlighted by a 116% jump in solar system revenue to 35.6 million. Gross margin on those sales also increased from 24% to 29%, an impressive expansion of margins. Given upcoming solar tariffs, it’s likely margins will be squeezed slightly in 2018, but a gross margin in the mid-20s is impressive nonetheless.

    On top of the growth in system sales, operating expenses were down 4.6% to 30.6 million in the quarter. Operating expenses like sales and marketing have long been a thorn in the side of residential solar companies, because once early adopters have installed solar, making incremental sales becomes more expensive. The fact that operating expenses are trending lower is a good sign overall.

    What does the future look like for Vivint Solar?

    If we take the revenue per watt of 3.04 from system sales, and project it across all installations, the company has the potential for about 135.7 million in revenue from 44.6 MW of installations. Assuming a 29% gross margin, gross income would be about 39 million.

    That’s barely enough to cover the 30.6 million in operating expenses Vivint Solar had last quarter, but you can see where the company is going. If gross margin creeps slightly higher and operating expenses continue to trend lower, Vivint Solar can be solidly profitable given its current level of installations per quarter.

    On top of solar systems, Vivint Solar should start to see more energy-storage sales in 2018. This will bring incrementally more revenue and margin per sale, and any growth that leverages existing expenses would also help increment profit.

    Headed in the right direction

    I think residential solar installers that are transitioning to system sales are making the right move, offloading the interest rate and default risk that have plagued them in the past. The strategy is starting to pay off in Vivint Solar’s financials and if the trend continues the company could be a long-term winner for investors. But there’s a long road ahead and a fast-moving solar market, so keep an eye on revenue and margin trends in 2018.

    Travis Hoium has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

    Interested in purchasing solar through Vivint but not sure if they are getting good reviews?

    It’s our job to research the major players in the solar industry to save you some of the hours of legwork involved in researching and purchasing your new system. We will take a look at Vivint solar reviews from a variety of sources below, highlight the compliments and complaints, analyze the review trends, and see how they stack up against similar companies in their niche. Numbers are current as of the writing of this post.

    #1 Overview of Vivint solar reviews

    Let’s start by looking at Vivint’s overall customer scores from several sources.

    Consumer Affairs: 3.8 out of 5 (266 ratings)

    Vivint reviews from Consumer Affairs are solidly in the Above Average range. With a hefty number of ratings, it looks like you are more likely to find a pleasurable experience with Vivint than a bad one. Looking at the individual rating breakdown, we can see how the 3.8 average came about and discover that, in actuality it might be a little misleading. Take a look below.

    We can see that, although the overall rating points indicate an above average experience, the exact same number of reviews had a 5-star rating as the 1-stars. There really aren’t a lot of people stuck in the middle over at Consumer Affairs. it’s either love them or hate them!

    Best Company: 6.6 out of 10 (476 ratings)

    Somewhat similar to Consumer Affairs, at Best Company you’ll find a Slightly Above Average overall rating for their Vivint reviews. The site has a strict moderation policy that regularly scans for fake reviews and removes them from the scoring. They never take payments in exchange for top spots!

    This overall rating isn’t very encouraging, so let’s take a look at the breakdown to see where everyone cast their vote on the Vivint experience.

    Wow. This distribution paints a much better picture of Vivint! Nearly half of all respondents said that they were 100% satisfied with their experience and only 19% had a horrible experience.

    Solar Reviews: 3.13 out of 5 (340 reviews)

    Solar Reviews is a site focused solely on reviews of contractors and service companies in the solar industry. As such, they break down their reviews a little further to provide some more detailed information for prospective buyers. Based on the 3.13 rating, Vivint isn’t winning any medals with the customers here. Let’s see the individual scores:

    Similar to Consumer Affairs, it looks like Vivint customers are either insanely happy with their service or driven insane by it. There isn’t much left in the middle for lukewarm responses.

    According to their detailed ratings, after sales support has the worst quality rating while the sales process itself has the highest. It seems strange that these two areas would conflict in such a way if their sales process was so good.

    Yelp Reviews: Varied by Location

    So far we’ve seen a bit of variation from site to site regarding review ratings, and we don’t have the clearest picture of what to expect from Vivint Solar.

    If you’ve ever been to a fast food chain with lots of locations, you’ve probably realized that just because the sign on the building is the same everywhere doesn’t mean that you can expect to get the same level of service and quality there. In this way, it might be useful to take a look at some of the 20 states that Vivint services to see if the local offices differ concerning quality.

    Wow. Some of these ratings are pretty brutal. In California, literally nobody gave them a 5-star review. In fact, nearly all of the respondents gave Vivint Solar a 1-star rating.

    #2 What are these Vivint solar reviews telling us?

    Reviews by actual customers are fantastic tools for someone researching a new solar investment because they can provide a candid look at exactly how a company is doing business. In the case of Vivint Solar reviews, it looks like sometimes these customers are blown away by their service and at other times they are incredibly unhappy. So, how are we supposed to interpret these results if they seem to be conflicting?

    It’s important to remember that Vivint is a publicly-traded company that covers almost half of the United States. With such a large coverage area, it is highly unlikely that everyone writing these reviews used the same sales rep, talked to the same customer service rep, and dealt with the same installers.

    It’s obvious that this company can and does great work in some cases, while dropping the ball in others. The only way to get more concrete information about what to expect with your own installation is by finding someone local that has dealt with the company and can speak about individuals that they did business with personally.

    People are far from perfect, and unfortunately, there are a lot of folks out there that simply don’t care about doing a good job, will lie to you just to make a sale, and generally be uncommunicative. Not everyone operates that way, but enough do to give a big company like Vivint a bad reputation.

    Let’s take a look at some of the specific complaints and compliments that reviewers volunteered about Vivint.

    #3 Typical complaints about Vivint

    Complaints about Vivint run the gamut, but most of them revolve around poor workmanship that caused leaks, unresponsive customer service, and dishonest information.

    Here’s one review from Best Company about poor customer service:

    Vivint does not live up to it’s [sic] “customer service is in our dna” for existing customers. They FOCUS on Sales and New installs. Once you have your panels installed, it takes weeks / months to get problems resolved. In the seven months since my system was activated, we have experienced two inverter problems. Both times took month to resolve; during which time my panels produced no energy. However, Vivint continued to bill me. This summer my electric bill is double the cost it was when I used only National Grid. This company does not care about existing customers.

    Consumer Affairs shows us a review about leaks caused by Vivint’s solar panel installation:

    My roof has been leaking caused by their solar panels. I contacted them about it. They send an inspector. He came to conclusion that half of my house is leaking caused by their panels. They sent out an estimator for a roofing company to do the estimate for them. One week after the guy did the estimate for them, James called me saying they will only pay 500.00 for the damages they caused to my roof. Half of the house is leaking. From the kitchen to our bathroom and my bedroom. I don’t think that the amount of damage they caused only cost 500.

    Another irate customer rants about their dishonest salesman on Solar Reviews:

    Our sales person … told us it would cost 499 to have the panels removed if the buyers didn’t want the contract transferred. Not true! It’s going to cost us approximately 20,000 to cancel the contract now that we’re selling our house and the new buyers do not want the solar panels. Check out #12 Assignment and Transfer in the contract which is the section that Vivint will refer you to while apologizing for the “misunderstanding”. If we had a full roof of panels installed rather than a half, the cost to us to cancel the contract would’ve been about 40,0000 [sic].

    #4 Typical compliments about Vivint

    Of course, it’s not all bad new with Vivint. Although people had good things to say about a range of things, most of the compliments about Vivint mentioned the smooth process, friendly sales representatives, and bill savings.

    One review from Consumer Affairs highlights the easy process and immediate savings:

    Mike, an agent of Vivint Solar came through our door and enrolling with them was easy. We’ve gotten one bill and we have been saving money thus far and that’s what it’s all about. My experience with Vivint has been excellent and I’m very satisfied with my decision to go solar.

    On Solar Reviews, a recent customer had great things to say about her bill savings:

    I’ve been with Vivint Solar for almost a year and I’ve saved almost 40% from the previous year’s electric bills. The system looks great on my roof, and the installation went smoothly. They were done in one day. It did take about 2 months to turn on the system after install, but that was the typical time frame in my area. Looking forward to another summer full of sun!

    Another customer had a positive experience with their sales rep on Best Company:

    Great experience. Kellyanne was an absolute pleasure to deal with and very knowledge [sic]. Look forward to seeing if solar is right for me.

    #5 How Vivint reviews compare to other similar installers

    Like we discussed before, each company is only as good as the individuals that they have working for them. No matter the solar company, a shoddy installation team and a dishonest salesperson can ruin a customer’s experience no matter how well-intentioned their company is. Case in point, let’s take a look at two reviews for one of Vivint’s competitors, Sunnova:

    Here’s one from Solar Reviews about leaks in the roof:

    clean, energy, sunrun, vivint, form

    Sunnova has been a horrible company to work with. My panels were installed about two years ago. When I noticed a leak in December 2016, I called them to set up the repair. In my area, they contract with Vision (now ION) Solar. It is April 21, 2017 and the repairs are still not done. In fact, Ion Solar has caused more damage to my roof than was previously there. I also have had drywall damage in my living room since December that they haven’t even started working on. I have called Sunnova over 20 times to get this addressed. They say they are going to call back, but they never do.

    Just like Vivint though, other customers have great experiences with Sunniva. Here’s another review from Best Company about saving money with them:

    Sunnova checked out all my bills for 12 months with the electric company and got the right estimate for me, gave me the best price and got my bills reduced by more than half. I would strongly recommend this company and have to all who ask about solar. So far 7 of my friends and neighbors have had solar installed by this company and are all quite happy.

    Either one of these reviews could easily be for Vivint based on the ones that we looked at earlier. And this is fairly across the board for all big solar installers. You will find some people praising something like saving money while others are angry because they are being charged more! Vivint (and Sunniva) are not alone in their polarized reviews!

    Don’t believe us? Take a look at our articles on Sunrun and SolarCity reviews. we found very similar situations!

    #6 Should you do business with Vivint?

    After reading through all of these reviews and seeing how regular folks just like you and I can have such different experiences with Vivint, it might be hard to find the confidence needed to take the plunge with this company.

    In reality, reviews like this are just one piece of the puzzle. It is more important that you take the time to do a little bit of boots on the ground research on the installers that are available in your area. If you live near a bigger city, it’s likely that you’ll have more than one company to choose from in your search.

    Take your time and ask all the questions you can before committing to anything. Pay particular attention to the contracted rates, production guarantees, and anything that says that will change over time. It might even be a good idea to let your attorney scan over the contract to ensure that there aren’t any complicated loopholes that could leave you holding the bag in the case of an incident.

    Don’t be afraid to ask neighbors with solar what their experience has been like and what company they used. Even ask them the names of the salesperson, installation crew, and customer service reps they spoke to during their process. Anything you can do to get more information about what to expect, the better!

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