How to Raise the Solar Industry Right

by Anna Gretz
March 29, 2018
Energy

As it continues to mature, the solar industry could use some good parenting.

Solar’s magical, doe-eyed infancy is over. Things started slowly, as new technology often does, with rooftop solar, but the past few years in particular have seen the solar industry hit a huge growth spurt, and it’s time the industry starts to pull itself together.

At the moment, the solar industry is limping through a bit of an awkward phase. It happens to all markets (and middle schoolers)--the industry itself is struggling through a sloppy, piecemeal stylistic phase, and solar leaders need to work together toward standardization. In order for the solar industry to reach maturity, solar design, construction, maintenance and operation need to be standardized. And just like assimilating a tween, this is no easy task.

It takes a lot of work to install, operate, and maintain a fully and awesomely functioning solar system. Solar is it’s own new thing, and a lot of the systems used in modern manufacturing simply don’t translate well into the brave new world of photovoltaics. The science of mass-manufacturing has assisted solar companies in cranking out new cells and panels at an astounding rate, but this is where the efficiency has ended… so far.

The next step in raising up the solar industry right will take intentional engagement and collaboration from the proud parents of the solar world… also known as industry leaders. These leaders will have to put some intense attention into quality assurance and control in order to ensure solar’s maturity and eventual success.

When it comes to making the entire solar acquisition process as efficient as possible, things are just getting started. Improvement is dragging partially because of the lack of a clear feedback loop. When trying to sell a customer on relatively new technology, most companies don’t want to focus on where the process needs work. Because companies deemphasize the potential weaknesses of their products, there’s not a clear path to dishing out constructive criticism. The goal is for the system to work well enough for customers to be satisfied. This is great until the market seeks to make improvements… and has no idea where to start.

Neither solar industry leaders nor solar customers need to settle for an experience that is merely “good enough.” Moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy resources like solar is an incredible step forward, but things can keep getting better and better. This means that instead of focusing on decently happy customers, we need to start taking a good look at every step of the solar installation, operation, and maintenance process.

Solar, it’s time to grow up.

Instead of getting effusive praise for every little step forward, the solar industry needs some seriously tough love to mold it into a well-oiled machine.

Closing the Solar Industry Feedback Loop through Standardization AKA Raising solar with some tough love

Get everyone on the same page. Everyone in each stage of the solar acquisition process needs standardized training, unifying the process and setting industry best practices.

Build trust. A standardized process will inevitably boost the industry’s reputation and up the standards of quality assurance and control.

Learn from mistakes. When the process is standardized, common errors can be identified and avoided more easily, making the entire process that much more efficient.

Encourage feedback. Creating a space for customer feedback will improve customer experience immediately by increasing the flow of communication, and in the long run by correcting and improving the process based on customer comments.

Collecting, compiling, analyzing and publishing information gathered from customers and service providers in the solar sector takes work, but it’s well worth it. Now that the solar industry is growing swiftly and coming into its own, it’s time for a mature, standardized process of installation, operation and maintenance to usher the industry into a successful future.