The Aurora Blog’s Top 10 Articles of 2019

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As we kick off 2020, maybe you’re thinking about how you can set your solar company (or personal solar career) up for success in the year ahead.

At the Aurora Blog, we too are thinking about the year ahead and what topics we can tackle to provide the greatest value to you in your work. As part of that, we took a look back at the topics and articles Aurora Blog readers couldn’t get enough of in 2019.

These ten articles were the most-read posts we published last year and are a great starting point for brushing up on key issues in the industry. We start with number 10 and count down to our #1 blog post of 2019!

Boost your solar sales success with faster lead follow up

#10: Boost Your Solar Sales Success With Faster Lead Follow Up

Customer acquisition is one of the biggest challenges for solar companies and one of their most significant costs. This means that when you connect with a prospective customer it’s critical to avoid mistakes that could cost you the sale.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conducted a two-year study that identified common mistakes in the solar sales process that can cost you the sale. “Our goal in this project was to understand better the decision making of potential customers that are considering adopting solar for their home, in order to be able to help solar developers and other industry stakeholders identify pathways to reducing customer acquisition costs,” says Ben Sigrin, one of the studies authors.

In this article, the first in a series exploring findings from the study, we examine why fast follow up with leads is essential. You might be surprised to learn that many leads don’t get a quick response—and just how costly that can be!

#9. How to Get HOA Solar Approval: Tips for Success

In some areas, Homeowners Associations (HOAs) can present significant barriers to homeowners’ ability to install solar. As a solar contractor, the extent to which HOAs impact your business is dependent on your state’s laws and the HOA bylaws in the neighborhoods you target. However, there are a number of strategies you can employ to help ensure HOA approval for your customers’ PV solar systems, regardless of where you do business.

In this article, we share best practices from interviews with solar contractors with extensive experience working with HOAs to help ensure successful outcomes on projects in HOA communities—and guide your prospective customer through the process as well.

Gippsland Solar won a solar deal for a new construction project with Aurora

#8: How Gippsland Solar Won a Unique New Construction Solar Deal

Designing solar for a building that hasn’t been built yet presents many unique challenges, but the right tools can help your solar company overcome them and win more business.

Gippsland Solar won a unique and high-profile solar project for the globally recognized Penguin Parade Visitor Centre in Australia using Aurora solar software to design the PV system—before the Centre’s new building was constructed.

Although they had only the architectural plans to work from, Aurora gave Gippsland Solar the tools to precisely calculate how many panels would fit, how much energy they would produce, and present the designs in a compelling way for the buyer. Andy McCarthy, Gippsland Solar founder, shares the process and insights on how you too can put in place a winning system for designing solar for new buildings.

Learn how to approach commercial solar sales

#7. How to Sell Commercial Solar: 3 Strategies for Success

There is a lot of complexity that comes with selling commercial and industrial (C&I) scale solar, including many factors that differentiate it from residential solar sales. Your commercial client’s motivations for considering solar differ from residential customers, as do the ways they evaluate your proposal and the processes by which they make their decisions.

To understand some of the important factors in a successful commercial solar sales process, we spoke with professionals with extensive C&I solar sales experience. In our conversations, some essential elements of a successful commercial solar sales process emerged:

  • asking the right questions during the sales process,
  • understanding the landscape of other energy and building upgrades your commercial client may be considering,
  • and selecting the right tools and technologies (including the right proposal and design tools to close the sale).

In this article, Part 3 in our Unlocking Commercial Solar series, we delve into each of these topics and how to tackle them intelligently to improve your chances of closing the commercial solar sale.

We explain what to know about commercial solar#6: Making Sense of Commercial Solar: What You Need to Know About C&I

Falling between the better-known residential and utility-scale solar industry sectors, commercial (C&I) solar encompasses a wide variety of customer types and project sizes. It also differs from residential solar in some key ways.

Commercial solar has been slower to take off than the residential sector, but there are signs that this sector is poised for significant growth. And, for those who learn to navigate the complexity of these projects, the rewards can be big.

In this article, we delve into a variety of aspects of commercial solar to help solar professionals understand the dynamics of this unique sector—including a brief primer on what commercial solar is, the scale of this sector and some of the factors that have constrained its expansion, and forecasts for future growth.

#5: What Solar Contractors Should Know About O&M

Over the lifetime of a PV system, operations and maintenance (O&M) can be important in ensuring that the system achieves optimal power production. As the solar industry has matured, O&M as a service offering has evolved along with it, growing from simple service offered by EPCs to a dedicated market segment comprised of independent service providers and robust branches of solar contracting companies.

A solar contracting company evaluating where O&M fits in relation to its services has a number of factors to consider, particularly regarding whether to offer O&M in-house or outsource it. In this article, we explore what solar O&M involves, considerations for solar contractors regarding offering O&M services or working with other companies specializing in this space, and some criteria for evaluating potential solar O&M partners.

NREL provides guidance on solar snow loss values

#4: Your Guide to Monthly Snow Loss Values from NREL

Snow on solar panels can decrease the amount of energy they produce throughout the year. Yet determining the appropriate loss factor to account for energy production lost as a result of snow on the customer’s solar panels is particularly tricky.

Not only does the amount of snow vary widely between different locations, the design of the solar installation–particularly the tilt of the panels–can play an important role as well. Thankfully, NREL has developed recommended snow loss values for different types of solar designs in different areas.

In this article, we discuss this snow loss model and provide an interactive map to help you easily determine NREL’s recommended snow loss percentages for PV systems at different tilts and different locations. With this local, you can ensure your solar production estimates capture the effects of snow as accurately as possible!

Learn the differences between residential solar and commercial solar

#3: The Key Differences Between Residential and Commercial Solar

There are a number of important differences between residential solar and commercial solar projects for contractors. Whether you’re considering adding commercial solar to your contracting business or want to understand how different sectors compare.

To get the lowdown on some of the key differences in solar contracting for residential and C&I solar projects, we spoke experienced solar professionals in this area. Our conversation highlighted five notable differences between C&I and residential solar contracting, including differences in the length and complexity of projects, communication with customers, project costs, and financing. Read the full article to learn more!

These are the 3 questions to your solar sales pitch should answer

#2: The 3 Questions Your Solar Sales Pitch Needs to Answer

Selling solar isn’t always an easy task—but the right framework can make it easier. This can help you effectively address the prospect’s concerns and communicate the value of a solar installation from your company.

Drawing from the key insights shared by Aurora staff members Elliot Goldstein and Kenneth Williams in a popular 2019 webinar we hosted with Greentech Media, we share practical strategies for improving your residential solar sales.

Based on their personal experiences selling millions of dollars in solar installations for leading U.S. solar companies, Elliot and Kenneth also explain the three questions your sales conversation should answer for every prospective customer. Read on to learn what they are and how to tackle each of these topics for maximum success!

#1: Solar Panel Wiring Basics: An Intro to How to String Solar Panels

Solar panel wiring (stringing) is a fundamental topic for any solar installer, but it can certainly be complex!

An appropriate stringing configuration is essential to ensuring that your solar installation performs optimally. If the voltage of your array exceeds the inverter’s maximum, production will be limited by what the inverter can output. If the array voltage is too low for the inverter you’ve chosen, the system will also underproduce because the inverter will not operate until its “start voltage” has been reached.

In our most popular article of 2019, we provide a primer on how to string solar panels. We review the basic principles of stringing in systems with a string inverter, including how to determine how many panels to have on a string and options such as stringing solar panels in series or in parallel.

We hope you enjoy these popular posts and thank you for your readership of the Aurora Blog! Did you have other favorites that didn’t make this list? We’d love to hear about what topics you loved in 2019—and which you want to hear more about in 2020—in the comments below!