So, you've decided to take the next steps in energy independence by installing a new solar array on your property. You're actively shopping and looking for the right contractor to complete the work. You're curious about the process to install a solar array on your property. You're likely asking several of the following questions:
1) How do I get started on this process?
2) What is entailed in this process?
3) How much is it going to cost?
4) How long will it take to go from bid to power production?
5) Why do some companies not even bother showing up to my home before they bid a project?
6) I've picked my contractor, but we haven't started the install yet - what's taking so long?
What you'll not be aware of is the amount of time we spend "cutting the red tape" so-to-speak to take your project from idea to approved design by no less than four different agencies.
Most diligent contractors won't start your project until it's received all of it's necessary approvals which include state and local incentive programs, interconnection to the power company's electrical grid, net metering approval from the electric company so that your extra power turns into bill credits for you to use in the winter months, engineering (as needed), and permits - always required.
Starting your project before all of these things are approved could mean your price could change due to no incentive awarded all the way to the project could be deemed non-viable from the electric company. If you already had your project installed and they deem it non-viable, you now have a solar array sitting on your property that can't be turned on - and that's a bad day for a lot of people - both you AND the contractor who rolled the dice on your project without approvals.
The truth is, a solar installation requires patience from the buyer - because cutting the red tape can take as long (and usually MUCH longer) than the actual installation itself. Many of our permitting offices have a backlog of permits and are short on personnel which means a delay (often 6-8 weeks) before they issue your permit. With all of this said, below is the process you can expect when dealing with DPI Solar:
Our first step is to schedule an ON-SITE visit with you. We use this time to go through the project and one year of your electric bills. We will look at the mechanical execution of the work (where and how it's going to mount at the property as well as any structural needs/existing conditions that might need addressed before construction). Once we have an idea of the scope and execution of the project, we put together a preliminary bid to show you what to expect from the project insomuch as cost, benefits, incentives from the State, Energy Trust of Oregon, and Federal government. We also walk through the design with you and discuss net metering as well as what percentage of your bill the solar installation will offset. Once that process is complete and the design is acceptable to you, our sales advisor brings the design back to the office where our project manager and/or myself will review the design and make sure nothing was overlooked in the bidding process. We try to avoid change orders during construction and having that final design approval before signing any contracts really helps. Many companies will "blind bid" your project for you without ever stepping foot on your property before asking you to sign a contract. These types of bids will either be more expensive (to ensure any missed details - that would cause a change order - can be absorbed by the price) or their contract will exclude a lot of things "just in case", thus leaving you exposed to potentially expensive change orders. DPI Solar does our level best to ensure that we don't miss the easy details that have cost impacts. Our onsite evaluation process is the first effort at this endeavor. Once the internal review is completed, you'll receive a formal bid via email with some other supporting documents including cut sheets, terms and conditions, and any other details you may have requested be clarified during the onsite evaluation process. If you approve the bid, the next step would be to have us send you our Docusign document via email where both DPI Solar and yourself would digitally sign the contract, terms and conditions. At that time, your bid will be converted into a project where we will begin the paperwork submission process which includes: 1) your application for connecting your solar array to the utility grid 2) your application for receiving power credits for any excess power generation you have during daylight hours (net metering) 3) your application for any local or state incentives (in Oregon, this is currently ODOE's Solar+Storage incentive as well and Energy Trust of Oregon funding - if applicable). 4) submission of your project to our engineering firm (if necessary) 5) submission of your project to our CAD firm to prepare your plans for the permitting process 6) submission of your project to the proper jurisdiction to issue a permit for construction (which includes a structural and electrical permit application) Once all of these processes above are completed (and approved) we will schedule your project for installation. This is a floating date that we try to pin down to a specific week that is dependent on your schedule and availability. The first day of installation will see your parts delivered to the jobsite as well as our installation crew - usually onsite by 7:30. Your installation will progress (ideally) as expected with no modifications to your project (if we did our part, then the design is unlikely to change. Less than 5% of our customers ever see a change order related to our bid). Upon completion of the installation, we will: 1) walk you through the monitoring portal and show you the system working 2) shut the system off while we wait for inspections from the jurisdiction and the utility company 3) collect final payment once the jurisdictional inspections are complete (and BEFORE the utility turns on your system - we want OUR parts to become YOUR parts before the final switch is thrown). 4) deliver via mail or in-person a binder that includes all of your documents, permits, designs, inspections, and invoices. At this point, your project is complete and you're already making power for your property! Hope this thorough explanation about Cutting the "Red Tape" when buying a solar installation is helpful.