Who can I trust in the Solar Industry? Who's who?

The solar industry is a maturing industry and you have more and more players. Let me explain to you who's who in the solar industry

The solar industry is maturing fast as an industry and so you have a lot of changes, opportunities and new companies creating new products, new financial structures and people solving problems every day coming up with new things each and every day.

I explain first how a vertically integrated solar company does nearly all the solar installation work in-house, and then I split up all the work as companies specialize in one of these services.

I then go over organization dealing with policy and other services. As an end-consumer that wants to go solar, you may get in touch with multiple organizations and knowing how they work or get their funding is important to understand what they are after.

The solar installer - vertically integrated

These are companies that to everything in-house, they are vertically integrated. They do their own marketing and sales, they attract leads and convert them into customers with their own sales people. They have their own crews installing solar panels. Their back office has Projects managers, permitting specialists, inspection specialists and internal sales people to keep projects on track and informing customers along the way of how their project is going. Sometimes these solar companies have their own O&M departments to take care of customers post install.

You have small local solar installers like Ipsun Solar and then you have national players like a Sunrun and Tesla.

Lead generation - Marketing only

You have companies that find people interested into going solar and their only goal is to get that person's contact info like name, email and phone numbers and sell that information to another company that can contact that person to sell them something. 

Lead gen companies are really good at marketing. They get people to fill out a form of some sort on their website, Facebook or somewhere else and capture that lead's contact info.

This sounds bad, but it's not necessary a bad thing. A good lead generation company provides valuable information to the lead. They teach that person about solar and hopefully sets correct expectations. Once they win the trust of that lead, that's usually when the lead hands over their contact info.

A big name in this industry is EnergySage

Labor only

Some solar companies don't have much of a back-office. They provide labor to install solar projects. They don't have a warehouse or sales team. A company that has a solar project to install can hire a labor only company to do just the installation part.

Solar services: design, inspection, insurance

There are a lot of services needed to get a solar installation done and fully working. An example is a county inspection. Some counties are notorious for being difficult to pass inspection. One solution is to pay a third party inspection service company to sit an inspection.

Solar companies need to provide drawings to the County for inspection. These drawings are more accurate than what's on a sales proposal or quote. They have electrical line diagrams, calculations and need to adhere to certain standards. One can hire a subcontractor to provide these drawings.

Solar Software: maintenance, monitoring, design

Solar companies need a lot of software to run efficiently. One can create their own software, like Ipsun Solar has done by creating Ipsun Tech, but most solar companies use off the shelve software and then customize it to their likings.

There are more and more software companies catering to solar specific needs. Aurora Solar for example has excellent software to make accurate designs needed to estimate solar power production and estimate savings.


One can pay to have a solar energy system installed, but there are other options to finance a solar projects. Similar to a car; one can buy a car, rent or lease a car. Same with solar.There are more and more financial structures with tax equity investors, Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) providers, CPACE and other structures.

Solar Associations

There are multiple national solar association and then there are the local and statewide associations. They lobby their local or national government about solar policies that need to be created, amended or removed. You would think all these solar associations would work together but solar is such a large industry that what the small solar installers need to install residential projects is not the same as what large utility scale solar developers need. Sometimes their need are opposite of each other.

The biggest national solar association is called SEIA


You have non-profits that advocate for solar or certain specific law or policies about solar either locally or nationally. These non-profit do some amazing work to move the industry forward. Their funding comes from grants or other donations. Sometimes their funding comes from lead generation. These associations educate consumers about solar, get their contact information and sell it to a solar installer.

Example: Solar United Neighbors


Trust the person you know has your best interest at heart and know how they are paid. If a website wants to educate you and get your contact information, will they resell it to somebody else?

Remember the saying "You get what you pay for"