With the tremendous growth of the solar industry in the past few years, particularly in southwest states like Arizona and California, hundreds of new installers have cropped up to take advantage of the solar rush.
There are few national standards, under which people have to operate. And that means some unqualified individuals or companies are allowed to enter the industry.
But the new Southern Arizona Solar Standards Board (SASSB), a non-profit, has developed best practices standards for local solar installers to help remedy that.
The group was formed by installers and the Pima Association of Governments (PAG) to ensure that installers in Pima County, Ariz., which includes Tucson, use best practices when installing solar hot water and photovoltaic systems.
The organization wants the standards to help ensure the long-term success and viability of the solar market in the region, while ensuring that customers receive high-quality installations. It’s one of the first such attempts in the country.
It’s also unique in that the standards didn’t come from the local government or a utilities commission.
“The installers came together and decided to start developing standards,” said James McGinnis, project technical assistant for Clean Cities, Southern Arizona Regional Partnership and Southern Arizona Regional Solar Partnership. “That was the nucleus of the standards board. They came to PAG asking for a home for the board.”
With the installers behind it, the standards board was able to take on more of a community-centric model.
“When we were working on putting this together, we couldn’t find another organization doing this. We’re pretty excited to have this prototype. Being the first to do this, we have a lot to learn,” McGinnis said. “It’s great that it’s installer driven instead of being a top-down, regulatory thing.”
While the organization is focused on southern Arizona and wants to remain focused on that region, its keeping all of its information open, McGinnis said. By doing so, other organizations and regions could look to this system as an adoptable standards system for their own region.
“We’re all about trying to get the information out,” he said. “That’s good for the solar industry in general. We want to make sure the solar industry is the best it can be.”
Among other requirements to meet the standards, installers must have at least one full-time employee certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, be in business for at least two years and have completed at least 10 utility-verified system installations.
The installers must also be in good standing with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors, deemed an "approved installer" with applicable utilities, and properly licensed through all applicable southern Arizona entities, according to SASSB.
Installers must also offer customers a 10-year workmanship warranty and data monitoring for all systems.
Pictured: A residential install by the Technicians for Sustainability, a founder of SASSB. Image courtesy of SASSB.