The top three issues facing residential solar installers
By Steve Buchmiller
While the growth of residential solar installations is exciting, it’s essential to address the challenges that come with it. As a solar operations leader for some of the leading EPC’s in the industry, I know firsthand the challenges facing residential solar operations today.
The three biggest challenges I see are:
- the ability to scope projects and define deliverables
- the ability to scale and execute on those projects
- the ability to manage cash flow
The ability to scope projects and define deliverables with quality data coming in from a good site survey is critical to the success of any solar EPC. A comprehensive site survey is the foundation for any successful solar project. Skipping or ignoring critical information during a site survey can cause compounding delays down the pipeline, which can lead to major headaches. Knowing the structural roof data, interconnection method, and attachment method are all vital, to start each project off on the right foot. Quality-in equals quality-out, so start by nailing the perfect survey and scoping each project.
The second challenge facing solar EPC’s is the ability to scale and execute on those projects. As the demand for solar energy continues to grow, EPC’s must have the capacity to scale their operations quickly and efficiently. This requires not only the ability to recruit and train, but also the ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously with as minimal changes as possible. Key here is eliminating variables of the project as soon as you can. Not having a team built to do this can make it exponentially harder to fix and address later in the process. EPC’s must have access to a reliable and skilled workforce to execute these projects efficiently.
The third and perhaps most significant challenge facing solar EPC’s is cash flow management. Cash flow management hinges 100 percent on the ability to determine where projects are in the pipeline, as well as the ability to identify project types. Nowadays, EPC’s must operate like full-service construction companies, with deep knowledge of batteries, roofing, electrical systems, and other critical components. Without this knowledge, EPC’s risk making costly mistakes that can erode their cash flow, and threaten their ability to survive.
There are a lot of plates to keep spinning, but EPC’s can overcome these challenges by investing in the right people, processes, and technology. Outsourcing inefficient pieces of the equation can also be helpful. Look at every piece of the puzzle with a magnifying glass.
Ask yourself how you can get better quality data to drive job scoping, drive growth, and keep cash flow in-check. By doing so, you can overcome the hurdles and reap the rewards of this booming industry.
Steve Buchmiller is Co-Founder and COO of RDCL Services (www.rdclservices.com). Buchmiller is a solar operations pioneer who co-founded and rapidly built a team of over 600 employees across 18 states, then went on to help merge five solar companies and build it into a billion-dollar organization and top 5 producing solar firm in the U.S., says the company. He is now focused on his new company, RDCL Services, which has “uberized” the site survey to bring faster and more accurate site survey data to the solar industry.