But with solar panel installation, you are literally shouting your green credentials from the rooftops. And no one questions that, right? I mean, there aren’t any downsides to solar - are there?
In fact, the ‘eco math’ that applies to all your other decisions as an ethical consumer needs to extend to your energy, too. You should think about solar the same way you think about food or clothes: where has it come from? How far has it traveled? What conditions was it made under?
So, before you start tweeting smugly about your installation date, do your research carefully and ask your chosen solar company if they can answer these questions…
Are your installers independent?
There there are the independents – added value, added expertise and eager to make you happy. These are people who are mad about solar, know everything there is to know about their panels and who will see their relationship with you as long-term. After all, your panels will last more than 20 years!
Are the fitters local?
Where have the panels come from?
The primary reason behind the price drop is an influx of cheaper Chinese panels into the US and European markets. China’s solar take-over has badly hit domestic US panel manufacturing, with some companies folding. This has become a political hot potato; you may have heard about the erupting trade war between China and America as a result.
Politics aside, choosing a Chinese panel over an American one will obviously inflate the carbon footprint of your purchase. Why buy panels from thousands of miles away when you go to great lengths to source food and other products as locally as possible?
But what if I can only afford cheaper panels?
Southern Solar for instance, took the provenance of their panels very seriously. They took time to find a Chinese supplier that aligned with their own standards and ethos, so they could feel confident offering the panels to their customers. They chose a supplier that had been around since 1997 – not one of the many new, state-subsidised companies that jumped on the solar bandwagon last year – and checked that they complied with the ISO14001 environmental management system. They also checked the quality was approved by independent testing. These are the kind of criteria you can ask your installer about, too.
Has anything or anyone been badly affected to produce your solar?
Don’t be in the dark. All good solar panel installers should be able to answer these questions and offer you a package that meets your principles as well as your pocket. Make sure that the only regret you feel is that you didn’t make the switch sooner!
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