Picking the right solar technology for your community

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When it’s time to make a major purchase, most of us do our homework.  We make a list of features we want.  We ask friends for recommendations.  We read consumer reviews and look at industry literature to understand what we’re purchasing.  We also comparison shop to see where the best deal exists in the market.  And if we don’t follow these steps?  Too often, we get burned.

For a community or local government considering a major solar installation, the steps we take in evaluating our consumer purchases are even more important.  Anytime public dollars – whether government funds, nonprofit donations or utility investments – are spent, due diligence procedures must be followed to ensure the best possible fit is selected, especially with the community’s needs driving the decision.

While each community needs to define its own parameters for making a decision, we can offer up a few key questions for you to ask as you set about defining your own community’s requirements for solar technology.

  • What are the most prevalent types of technology in the solar energy industry?
  • In which climates do those technologies perform best?
  • How many kilowatt hours (kWh) for photovoltaic energy or British thermal units (BTUs) for solar thermal energy can the technology be expected to produce?
  • What are the average installation and maintenance costs by type of technology?  What outliers exist at either the high end or the low end, and what is the explanation for such outliers?
  • Do you want to purchase or lease the solar technology?
  • What innovations in solar energy industry are on the horizon?  And what are the potential benefits of those innovations?

Taking time to do your homework up front and design the best fit for your community’s energy needs will pay off in the long run and can make solar a successful reality for your community.

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