Solar Brokers Emerge as an Innovative Model to Help Businesses Save Money

Go solar, save electricity, save money, and save the planet with solar brokers
Jun 21, 2011 2:35 PM ET

Solar Brokers Emerge as an Innovative Model to Help Businesses Save Money

From Glenn Croston's blog at Cleantechies

One of the most powerful drivers for the growing commercial solar market is the rising cost of electricity. If you are a small business owner in the Northeast with a painfully high electricity bill that rises year after year, solar power could be a smart way to lower your costs today and lock in low rates for the future.   The problem is that you have no idea where to start and you don’t have time to spend sorting through the decisions required to purchase a solar power system. You could look up a series of solar installers, interview them, check their references, get multiple quotes, read through the detailed contracts, and compare financing options, hoping to produce the best return on investment. But you really hadn’t planned on spending that much of your time on going solar, so you put it off for later. Often later never comes. Working with a solar broker, a new solar business model, may help businesses go solar and start saving money now rather than not at all.   A variety of factors are making solar increasingly cost effective for homeowners, business owners and landlords. One factor has been the rising price of electricity in many states, often those that have faced deregulation of the electricity market. Subsidies that many states provide are another important factor like Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs), and the adoption of Renewable Portfolio Standards that create a market for SRECs. The combination of financial incentives and high energy costs have driven the rapid growth of solar in California for many years, and are driving the current rapid growth of solar power in New Jersey today. Several additional states in the Northeast appear equally promising as new centers of solar growth in the months and years ahead.   For the business owner thinking of going solar, the questions include:

With so many manufacturers of PV panels now, how can you decide which PV panels are the most efficient, weather-resistant and the best overall value?

Is my commercial property well-suited to installation of PV?

Do I have the time to meet with many solar salesmen and installers to understand the many options and get the best value?

How long does it take for PV panels to pay for themselves?

Would purchasing panels or working through a power purchase agreement provide the best returns on a solar investment?

To help business owners answer these questions and make the adoption of solar power easier, an innovative business model has sprung up in the alternative energy field: solar energy brokering. With a solar broker, you have a single contact who guides you through the whole process, saving you time and frustration, and probably saving you money.   Typically people must themselves contact solar installers and interview them to decide which installer seems to provide the best value. A solar broker makes the whole process easier, operating like independent insurance agents who educate customers about coverages and help them to identify their particular needs. Solar brokers can also assist with obtaining rebates and incentives. The solar broker acting as an independent agent is an alternative to a direct-sell company that markets and sells directly to the end-customer. But, in contrast to salesmen who represent one solar installer, solar brokers may also work with many solar manufacturers and installers to provide the greatest number of options.   Prime Solar Network based in New Jersey is one business developing the solar broker business model to help businesses and homeowners save money.   “Property owners can try to become an expert when they take the time to meet with several solar companies and compare different design and material options, and different prices for installations or options of financing,” said Tim Cassidy, CEO of Prime Solar Network. “Alternatively, they can rely on experts to do the competitive bidding for them and supply an easy to read report with conclusions on the options. We offer the latter, which sure seems to be the logical choice.”   As long as experts predict that the cost of electricity will continue to rise, businesses will continue to need financially sound solutions like solar. And with time always a precious resource for businesses, talking to a solar broker could be the easiest way for them to make this happen.   Glenn Croston is the author of “75 Green Businesses You Can Start to Make Money and Make a Difference, and the founder of Starting Up Green (, helping businesses to stat green and grow greener.  


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