olar dealers or distributors are intermediaries between photovoltaic manufacturers and their buyers. Let’s learn the ins and outs of how to become a part of the solar dealership business.
Are you willing to become a solar distributor but unsure how to begin? Start the ball rolling by reviewing your local licensing requirements. In the United States, some local governments require licenses to sell photovoltaic panels, while others don’t. So, clarify this matter before you take any other steps. In some states, a dealer may be fined or sued if they are not licensed, so the best thing is to check these regulations with the local department of commerce or state energy commissions.
To apply for a dealer license from your local government, you must first get certified. But even if you don’t need a license, obtaining a solar certification is something you should definitely consider. First of all, the certification will be an advantage over other uncertified distributors, which means you will be more appealing to potential customers. In addition, having a solar certification may allow you to expand your business by operating in multiple municipalities or states, providing more opportunities for growth. As the statistics show, certified solar dealers earn an average of $11,000 more annually than their uncertified colleagues.
What certifications may be helpful for those who want to become a solar professional? Firstly, consider a sales certification, which can be obtained through the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Secondly, you may choose an Alternator Installation Certification provided by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). Finally, there is a Solar PV Design Certification, which can be obtained through the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
The ideal direction for solar panels depends on your location. In the northern hemisphere, panels should face south to capture the most sunlight throughout the day. In the southern hemisphere, they should face north. However, adjustments may be necessary based on shading, roof orientation, and local climate.
The next step on your path toward becoming a dealer should be writing a business plan. This is a necessary action for any business, but especially if you are new to the industry. Without it, it will be unclear which way you need to move further. Your business plan should include the following key elements:
- your mission statement, your aims, and the explanation of how you will reach these aims;
- market research on the demand for solar installations in your area;
- list of solar products you plan to sell (the list may not be limited to photovoltaic panels);
- financial estimates for the next few years, including your expected profit margins;
- your marketing strategy and marketing plan (promotional and advertising activities).
Unless you are going to set up a solar business using your personal funds, you will need to look for financing. Even if you plan to use your own savings, external funding will allow you to receive financial help from banks or investors when there are some tough times. Notably, you should understand that your solar business may take longer than expected to turn a profit. Don't get discouraged too easily; the best course of action is to save money and stay patient and committed.
Business insurance can help you pay the costs associated with property damage and liability claims. The price of this insurance will depend on your business size and the coverage you need. Insurance for solar companies can be rather expensive, so do your research and check out local insurance agencies or online providers specializing in small business coverage and compare rates.
In the first place, solar dealers need to have general liability insurance, which will protect them from claims that they caused bodily injuries or property damage. Most contractor general liability insurances provide a minimum amount of $500,000 coverage. You also need errors and omissions insurance, which will protect you in case of a mistake while installing photovoltaic equipment.
Finding wholesale solar suppliers
If you're just starting out in the business, it's crucial to find a reputable solar supplier to buy from. You can ask other solar dealers for recommendations or check online databases, like the Solar Energy Industries Association's database, for options.
Make a list of potential suppliers and then contact them. Inquire about their pricing, minimum purchase requirements, and delivery times. Do not forget to ask whether the supplier can offer you any discounts for mass orders (they could be as much as 40%).
Choose the wholesaler that proposes the lowest price for brands you are interested in. Be certain when cooperating with wholesale suppliers that they guarantee you all photovoltaic equipment is new, not used, or refurbished.
Joining a professional solar organization
Joining a professional organization can be beneficial for solar dealers in several ways. They can be part of a network of like-minded professionals who can provide support, be updated on the latest industry news, and increase their competitiveness when seeking employment opportunities.
There are lots of different organizations in the photovoltaic industry. The above-mentioned SEIA is one option to join. Another option would be the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). This organization focuses on promoting renewable energy through certification and education programs.
Building your solar team
In case you want to organize a team of solar professionals, here are some things to consider when seeking a top-notch salesperson: knowledge about your niche market, passion for selling, and the awareness of questions and concerns that customers may have about photovoltaics. Furthermore, find team members who are certified. If the candidate seems really brilliant, but lacks the necessary certification, provide them with the necessary time and resources to obtain it.
Further tips for would-be solar dealers
- Determine the inventory you will need for your business. Our suggestion is to make an initial list of everything necessary, including hardware, software, tools, etc.
- Create a website and fill it with videos explaining the benefits of solar power. You may ask your wholesalers if they have any promotional videos featuring their equipment that you can use.
- Schedule a grand opening event for your business and advertise it widely. Provide incentives for your potential customers to attend, including discounts, prizes, and snacks.