Helpful Hints

Take Care in Selecting Electrical and Solar Contractors

Check before you sign!

 

We’re all used to blind mailings, cold calls, and emails from salespersons to buy this new thing or refinance that old thing. These same sales pitches extend to clean energy technologies like solar, small wind, and biomass as well.

While these technologies are often well-suited for many rural businesses and farms, it is important not to get swept up in a sales pitch or the novelty of the technology without a little due diligence.

 

Most solar technology and renewable energy vendors operate ethically, because honest service is in their long-term business interests.

Fritz Ebinger, Rural Energy Development Program Manager, CERTs

Doing Due Diligence

Most solar technology and renewable energy vendors operate ethically, because honest service is in their long-term business interests. Nonetheless, there are a few bad apples who ruin the bunch by being pushy and over-stating energy production or financial performance. Just like selecting a contractor for a construction project or remodeling job, a little research is warranted in selecting solar and electrical contractors.

In Minnesota, installing racking, placing and securing solar modules, and installing electrical wiring and electrical equipment must be performed by a licensed electrical contractor or their registered employees. Before hiring a contractor, signing anything, or paying any money, ask for the contractor’s license number and call the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) to verify that the renewable energy vendor is licensed and that they do not have a disciplinary history. You can also visit the DLI License Lookup Tool or call 651-284-5069.

Key Questions

Be sure to ask about the installer’s credentials. For example, the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (nabcep.org) requires that NABCEP-certified solar PV installers receive training before being certified and that they receive ongoing training to maintain certification. This NABCEP training often dovetails with Minnesota’s electrician licensure requirements and offers the benefit of specialized knowledge in the State Electrical Code’s solar requirements and solar technology.

Don’t be afraid to request references. You should feel free to call references and ask about their experience with the solar or renewable energy installer. Did the installer meet their expectations? How were issues with permitting and interconnection resolved, if there were any? Did the installer work hard to resolve any issues? Were they responsive in the years after installation? A few short conversations with references can tell a lot. And if the vendor can’t offer any references, well, then you have your answer.

A few short conversations with references can tell a lot. And if the vendor can’t offer any references, well, then you have your answer.

Fritz Ebinger, Rural Energy Development Program Manager, CERTs

Code of Ethics

In addition to state licensure and legal requirements, many renewable energy vendors also affirm the code of ethics adopted by their business associations. For example, members of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association (MNSEIA.org) abide by a code of conduct with ten fundamental canons. A few of these customer-oriented canons include maintaining high ethical standards when advertising, selling, and installing solar equipment; presenting honestly, the capabilities, performance, and energy savings potential of solar products; offering clear and understandable warranties of the equipment and installation service; and being professional and faithful agents for each client. Perhaps most importantly, MNSEIA members avoid all practices that are likely to discredit the solar profession or deceive the public.

Take Your Next Step

 

If you are considering a renewable energy project, lists of installers are available on MNSEIA’s Find an Installer page, CERTs' Solar Directory, or the MN Department of Commerce’s Solar Business Directory.

You are also welcome to contact CERTs staff at 612-626-1028 with any questions about solar and renewable energy matters.

 

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