3 Ways to Enhance the Accuracy of Solar Project Analyses
Accuracy is the name of the game in the interactions between solar providers and their customers. The mass market that solar providers need to meet is increasingly risk-averse, so the more that solar projects live up to the expectations they set, the better. Let’s put the microscope on how installers and developers can ensure optimal accuracy in their solar project analyses.
Why Accuracy Matters
The accuracy of a quote produced by a solar installer is more than just a point of pride or nice-to-have product feature. It can make the difference between a happy customer and a grumpy former customer.
A study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that for homeowners who have purchased solar, the factor that is most likely to impact whether they would recommend their installer to a friend is how closely their actual cost savings on energy aligned with what was projected.
If a solar installer sets the customer’s expectations for their return on investment too low, they won’t purchase. If an installer sets the customer’s expectations too high, on the other hand, it risks ultimately disappointing the customer and leaving them with a negative impression of their provider (an impression they won’t be shy about sharing). All this to say: producing accurate solar project analyses for prospects materially impacts a solar installer’s reputation. So, how can one ensure that their estimates are as accurate as can be?
3 Ways to Enhance Solar Project Analyses
1. Take Estimates out of the Equation
For starters, any sort of guesstimation will give rise to inaccuracy. Most initial evaluations of a prospect’s fit for solar entail having the customer estimate their average monthly electric consumption and cost. Of course, a full proposal won’t be produced until after a site visit, but in these cases, the installer and customer are both starting off on a wrong assumption of how much energy the customer actually needs.
Adding other data sources into the equation before the site visit is even scheduled will improve the accuracy and efficiency of the whole process. Utility data for solar, for instance, enables installers to access real usage and cost data for each prospect directly from the electric provider. This way, rather than working from inaccurate estimates, installers can dive deep into solar project analyses with a confident understanding of what the customer needs.
2. Harness the Power of Interval Data
To get even more granular than utility data, installers looking for accuracy need look no further than to interval data. As Adam Gerza of Energy Toolbase says: “One size does not fit all when it comes to the right sizing of a solar project. Raw meter data enable system analyses that are highly specific to individual customers and their unique load profiles.” According to Gerza, installers can utilize interval data to enhance solar project analyses in several ways, such as to:
- Find the utility rate schedules that will maximize savings for the customer
- Optimize PV system size and capacity
- Simulate demand charge reductions
- Model future savings under net energy metering structures
- Quantify the economics of energy storage projects
The best part is: Installers have more options than ever to access interval data on behalf of the customer. Even without installed submeters on the property, interval data is available from sources like Green Button, utility websites, and utility interval data platforms.
3. Use the Eye in the Sky
Finally, one of the more exciting uses for modern drone technology (at least to us) is aerial imagery for site mapping. Nearmap’s services are just one option out of many. The company uses low-flying planes to capture multiple up-to-date images of rooftops throughout the year in 400 cities in the United States. Aerial imagery allows installers to see a prospect’s roof type, size, obstructions, tree cover, and seasonal changes over time, allowing them to produce solar project analyses faster and more accurately.
In an industry like solar that’s still emerging, albeit very rapidly, getting things right the first time around is pivotal. Accurate solar project analyses are the bedrock of establishing trust in an installer’s brand and in the industry as a whole.
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- 5 Ways to Accelerate Solar Sales
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About Andrea Duke
Andrea is a former Marketing Communications Manager at Urjanet. She is an experienced writer and content strategist, and is passionate about sustainability.