Solar installer failure is a red flag for buyers; how to avoid scams | WFAE 90.7

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Rooftop solar power has become something of a rush for frontier lands as we turn to renewables to fight climate change. Hundreds of entrepreneurs, some with little or no experience, have flocked to the business. The ads promise free solar panels and zero dollar energy bills. Many lies are told, to take advantage of our good intentions.

You may have recently read the news about the collapse of the Mooresville-based solar company Pink Energy, formerly known as Power Home. David Hodges of WBTV reports that the company is closing.

The company’s failure leaves thousands of customers across the country stranded.

Pink says in a lawsuit that her problems stem from poor equipment from a battery supplier. But other reports suggest there’s more to the story. A WBTV investigation two weeks ago revealed complaints before the company began working with this provider.

WBTV’s Hodges says customers complain that Pink’s solar systems don’t work as promised, or at all. And the supposed savings did not materialize. Many still have to repay their monthly loans, even when their systems aren’t working.

[UPDATE: Attorney General Josh Stein’s office has begun an investigation of the company, a spokeswoman said Monday. She gave no details.]

NC Sustainable Energy Association reports that other solar installers are stepping in to help. “I have the opportunity to speak with some equipment vendors and they are in the early stages of coordinating with other installers to proactively contact customers to try and address some concerns and help warranty repairs,” NCSEA spokesman Matt Abele said.

Jay Radcliffe, president of Renu Energy Solutions in Charlotte.

Renu Energy Solutions in Charlotte has created a sister company, Sun Service, specifically to handle issues with systems installed by companies like Pink, company president Jay Radcliffe said.

“It’s not just them. It’s all the orphan systems that people have bought. They come back, maybe it’s disappointing. And so our service team will go in there and fix any system” , Radcliffe said.

There are far too many stories about people trying to switch to solar power, only to get shoddy service, he said.

So how do you avoid getting scammed?

NCSEA’s Abele urges people to only work with companies that meet certain standards. The association has a solar business code of conduct and lists all of its member installers who have signed an agreement “committing to the highest professional standards in the industry”.

“We often refer customers to these installers for help in repairing or replacing systems installed by bad actors in the industry,” Abele said.

Radcliffe said many companies selling rooftop solar panels are unqualified. Some don’t even have licensed electricians. Some are just marketing companies that sell their contracts to installers, who themselves may not be up to scratch, he said.

“They’re not general contractors. They don’t have all the proper licenses. They’re not NABCEP certified,” he said. NABCEP is the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.

“If you don’t have all of these things, they shouldn’t even be able to come to your door or even sell you,” Radcliffe said.

For more information, see NCSEA’s NC Consumer Guide to Solar Electricity and Solar Business Code of Conduct.

This report originally appeared in the WFAE’s weekly climate e-newsletter, which is published on Thursdays.

Updated: October 3, 2022 at 3:15 p.m. EDT

This story has been updated to include news that North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein’s office has opened an investigation into Pink Solar.

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