Georgia has an abundance of sunshine, yet rooftop solar lags other states and industrialized countries. The reason, of course, is relatively low utility rates together with the lack of state and local government support for solar. The shortsightedness of our state and local leaders is lamentable.
Better Tomorrow Solar was formed to do more than just lament, however. Realizing that the chief impediment to the widespread of solar power is more of a financial problem than a technological one, we incorporated to facilitate innovative financing options for Georgians looking to go solar.
The Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015, HB57, made the private sale of electricity from an onsite solar array legal for the first time in Georgia. The law allowed non-utility players to do business in the State’s electricity market. A third party such as Better Tomorrow Solar, could now finance the installation of a solar system on a house, business, school, church, government building, or any structure demanding electricity and sell the electricity generated from the system to the owner or occupant of the building. Generally known as a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), the arrangement is referred to as a Solar Energy Procurement Agreement (SEPA) by the 2015 legislation.
Better Tomorrow Solar formed to offer SEPAs to Georgia home and business owners. Under the arrangement, owners do not own the system on their roof. They merely have to pay for the power generated by it. We worked on models where we could offer that power at a lower rate than the big utility company. With no upfront costs and lower monthly power bills, solar is an easy choice.
When one Atlanta solar installation company took over eleven months to complete an installation for one of our customers, it became clear that we needed to do more than just financing. As a mere financing company, our power to keep our customers happy with their solar choice was limited. Our mission to put more solar on Georgia roofs was not feasible unless we were in control of our customers’ experiences. We had to hire an in-house engineering and installation team.
We focused on hiring the best technical team in the Atlanta solar market and at the same time pursued and received the industry-leading certification by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).
So many solar companies which one is right for you?
Our experience as a financial facilitator for potential solar customers has served us well as a turnkey solar company. Being in the middle of the relationship between a solar installation company and a solar customer allowed us to understand the concerns of both parties. We made a list of what is important to both and took pains to make sure our turnkey solar company works hard at addressing those concerns.
Solar companies should be mindful of two things
The items on our list fall into two general categories.
- Clear and timely communication with the customer is key. Evaluating the needs of a customer and designing an optimal system tailored to meet those needs is a multi-step process. Each job site must be evaluated individually for solar irradiance and the system design must consider the customer consumption patterns, the utility rate plan, and budget. A successful design must be mindful of the technical, financial, and budgetary considerations. The need to communicate with the customer does not end once the design is finalized. The implementation of that design, the interconnection of the system with the utility company, and setting up the monitoring all require a solar company to keep the customer informed. We at Better Tomorrow Solar understand the need for clear communication with customers. We have advanced customer relationship software that alerts the customer at each step of the process from design, review, permitting, material acquisition, installation, inspection, interconnection, commissioning, and monitoring.
- Timeliness is another key factor in customer service. We understand that customers who signed contracts for a solar system have put a deposit down and are eager to have their systems installed. They are understandably excited to start enjoying the benefits of solar as soon as possible. We know. Not too many Atlanta solar companies have solar installed on their principal’s homes.
Many solar companies, in Atlanta and elsewhere, will insist on doing all the work in-house even if they are backlogged. Hiring design and/or installation help on a contract basis is costly. Declining to take a new job from willing and ready customers is not even an option. As the sales team get more and more ahead of the design and installation group, customer lead times get longer and longer. As mentioned above, we have experienced lead times of eleven months!
At Better Tomorrow Solar, when we sign a contract, time is of the essence. We have developed partnerships with carefully vetted and qualified independent contractors to help us when we get overloaded, usually around the last quarter of the year. That of course is more expensive than making customers wait, but it is a large part of the reason why our average lead time is now at 45 days from contract signing to being fully ready for interconnection with the utility company. The average time for Atlanta solar companies for that entire process is 90 days.
Go local when you are vetting solar companies
With plenty of sunshine and lots of rooftops, Georgia’s solar potential is huge. Solar companies from neighboring states are naturally attracted, especially to the Greater Atlanta area.
There are plenty of homegrown Georgia companies for the same reasons. The advantages of locally owned businesses are many and well known. Local businesses keep dollars in the local communities spurring local jobs, competitiveness, diversity, sustainability, and entrepreneurship. By being small and closer to their customers, local businesses generally offer more personalized service and are more aware and responsive to their customer’s concerns. Like all companies, local companies will have shortcomings, but they can correct for them more quickly than large companies who usually have a one-size-fits-all approach to their offerings. Local companies are more likely to be customer-centered.
But aren’t their advantages to going with a larger out of state company? Larger, multi-state companies are usually thought to be able to offer better prices. Their larger size and higher volume are thought to allow them to command better prices for their material purchases which is then reflected in the prices they can offer to their customers. Their operations are sometimes thought to be more efficient and their per-unit costs lower.
Perhaps. Even if their costs are lower, there is no guarantee that they will pass that on to their customers. They set their prices based on the competitive environment of the market in which they are selling, not their costs. Larger companies sometimes have a lower price and sometimes they do not. A shrewd consumer will just have to shop to find out. For a large ticket item like a solar system for your home or business, it would be foolish to do anything but.
Not all solar companies offer the same value
At the time of this writing in Georgia, the lowest advertised price of an out of state solar company is $2.65 per watt. Better Tomorrow Solar’s advertised price is $2.50 per watt. One of our recent customers who shopped around for his 8.8 kW solar system saved $1320 by signing up with Better Tomorrow Solar. Do not accept the first proposal you are offered—not even if your first proposal is from us. But check with us before you sign up with anyone else.
Are all solar companies created equal?
Out of state companies do not always offer lower prices. But do local companies always offer better, more responsive service?
Not always of course. Just as large companies can have higher prices, small companies can have poor customer service. There are no guarantees anywhere. Not all local companies are created equal. So again, customers are well-advised to shop around.
So far it pleases us immensely to be able to say that Better Tomorrow Solar has 100% customer satisfaction. We are highly protective of that honor and hard to keep that number at one hundred percent. Here are just a couple of several blog posts our customers wrote on their own about their experience with Better Tomorrow Solar: customer blog post 1; customer blog post 2.
Solar companies: the choice is yours
Knowing a little about solar helps make a better decision when choosing companies
No company is going to be able to guarantee you that they will always have the best combination of price, customer service, and timeliness. Most companies are earnest and try hard to deliver on all three criteria. When you are ready to go solar, the choice is yours. Be a smart consumer and shop around just as you would when making any major purchase. Sift through the marketing ploys and see for yourself which company offers you the best of price, service, and timeliness. If you do, we at Better Tomorrow Solar feel confident that we will get your business more than often than not.