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Energy Matters ( As originally published in The Danville/Alamo/Lafayette Today Newspaper, May 2014)

Read Original Newspaper Article PDF here

As a business owner, there is no better place than the contracting industry to apply some very basic principles which I was fortunate enough to learn while on active duty as an offi cer in the military.

A business needs to have and execute a “mission statement.” Ours is simple: do what we say, when we say, for the price we say. A business must also recognize the importance of continually communicating to its customers. Price changes are rarely legally justifi ed and typically inappropriate. There are obvious differences between business and military missions, but success is a result of planning, executing, and improving for the next project or mission.

To guarantee success of a solar project: Find a high quality contractor with the appropriate licenses to install your solar PV system. Ninety percent of construction litigation stems from issues involving water damage which are mostly preventable with use of licensed roofer. In addition, many municipalities require an electrician to do the electric portion of the solar work because of the complexity of the installation. A high quality contractor will recommend products that have a 25 plus year history of performance in the fi eld. If documentation of long-term performance history is not provided, find a contractor who will provide documentation. Trust, but verify.

NEMA (Net Energy Metering Aggregation) is a new PG&E solar rate which allows an electric customer with a single solar system to reduce electric costs to multiple electric meters on the same or contiguous properties. Electric connection to only one of the meters is required. Cost offset percentages are proportioned by the property owner and credited to the other meters on the account via PG&E software.

The ability of a consumer to check a businesses performance and customer satisfaction via online review websites is getting very popular.

GoSimpleSolar, by Semper Fidelis Construction, Inc is seeking a recently separated United States Marine or other armed service member for an entry level position. The candidate should be disciplined, have the ability to work with people, be agile and motivated. SFC Inc/GoSimpleSolar will offer a true career path to the right individual for growth in earnings, experience, and leadership.

Review websites have the potential to become “the great equalizer” between businesses, large and small. For the most part, it’s a valid process and makes companies’ business practices transparent to the public. Unfortunately, some false reviews do exist. Some consumers choose a local small business because of an assumed service quality advantage, while others find comfort by doing business with big box companies for the perceived stability of that company. But no longer can a large business hide behind its size as an obvious consumer choice if it has a history of poor reviews. The moral of the story for construction and solar projects: Do business with those with the best business record and products. These things are easily searchable online these days. Even Facebook is getting into the review business. Of course, back up your initial choice by checking license status at www.cslb.ca.gov, confi rming liability and workman’s comp insurance status, and the oft forgotten step of calling references.

State Rebates, still available: The New Solar Homes Partnership is a program which provides rebates to solar projects on new and fully remodeled homes. Most new homes automatically qualify because of local efficiency regulations for a new build. Today’s average rebate is about $8,000 additional monies back to the homeowner for an average sized solar system. The 30% Federal Tax Credit is still available for two and a half years.

A recent article in Solar Today titled “Sorting Out Legal Responsibility for Defective Solar Panels” was a head shaker yet provided me much business model validation. If a business offers safe product choices to its customers, and installs them properly, “defective solar panels” and “sorting out responsibility” will never be an issue. The best warranty IS the best product. The finger pointing in the article is tragic; the manufacturer blames product failure as a result of poor installation practices on the installer, and the installer blames poor quality control at the manufacturing plant. The agreement between the insurer and solar panel project owner restricts the ability of the claimant to identify the solar panel manufacturer so as to not “harm” the manufacturer. Who suffers? The consumer. Why put risk into an investment that essentially doesn’t have any if done properly and with the right products?

By Mark Becker, GoSimpleSolar

Mark Becker is the President of GoSimpleSolar, by Semper Fidelis Construction Inc, a Danville based Solar Installation Firm (License 948715). GoSimpleSolar can be reached at 925-331-8011. Visit GoSimpleSolar’s NEW and larger showroom at 100 Railroad Avenue, Suite B, Danville (behind Pete’s Brass Rail) and receive a $500 discount on your solar system. Go to www.GoSimpleSolar.com for a free quote, or email info@GoSimpleSolar.com.