Archive for category Solar Power CO2 reduction

The Internet: driving solar panel sales today

Solar lead generation drives solar panel salesThe solar photovoltaic panel market has had a hard time recently. Having reached great heights over the last 3 years, making the UK the fastest growing market in the world for PV installations in 2010, the government’s sudden announcement of an immediate reduction in the feed-in tariff last November caused chaos amongst customers and installers alike. Following an explosion in orders at the beginning of November, demand came to a virtual halt over the Christmas period, causing much concern and even some company closures.

Fortunately this dip was short-lived for several reasons: legal challenges meant that the reduction was delayed and that the ongoing timetable for reductions was reorganised; installers realised that the new FIT, running from 1st April (with eligibility from 3rd March) was still a pretty good deal for customers as the cost of panels has come down considerably; demand for solar PV panels picked up again on what has become a key marketing channel - the internet.

It’s pretty obvious really. If you’re thinking about installing solar pv panels on your house, how do you do your research? You can ask friends. You could buy a book or scour the papers for information. But the font of all knowledge these days is the world wide web, and this is where most people go to find out what they need to know so that they feel well-informed and less likely to be scammed when the time comes to contact a sales person. This approach has also created an advantage for said sales person as he/she can be more sure of the genuine level of interest of any potential customer who gets in contact via the web.

This type of contact is known as a ’sales lead’ or ‘lead’, and it’s online leads more than anything else that have helped the UK solar panel industry grow in the way that it has. Existing installers have realised that by providing contact forms on their web sites they can have a steady flow of interested potential clients to call back. Newcomers to the market have been encouraged to launch with little or no contacts, knowing that strong online marketing can help them generate leads quickly. And, most importantly, lead generation companies - marketing companies already expert in generating leads for industries such as finance and health, have opened for business in the renewable energy world.

Solar lead generation companies, as with their partners in other industries, generally work on a cost per lead basis, charging only for the correct details of interested potential customers delivered. This helps installers minimise the risk of investing in leads, knowing that a certain amount of leads purchased will result in a customer signed up. In addition, a good lead company will focus on quality and not on quantity, knowing that to ensure a long term relationship it is important to deliver leads that are likely to become customers and thus constitute a good investment for their clients.

In many ways the internet has changed the way we sell. That’s not to say there’s not still a role for door to door, face to face selling, or for the all important ‘tell a friend and get a reward’ approach. But it’s pretty safe to say that most installers of solar PV panels today would be lost without the internet and the leads it produces.

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Solar Powered Football

Solar panels on a football stadiumIn August Canadian Solar, one of the world’s largest solar companies, signed up for two years with Fulham FC to become their official solar energy partner. In fact they’re making a name for themselves by sponsoring a number of football clubs around the globe including Germany’s Hannover 96 and 1.FC Nuremberg.

In return for their sponsorship, Canadian Solar can expect to receive some high profile marketing and advertising opportunities. Their logo will be seen at all home games, on the digital perimeter advertising system and all over the stadium as well as featuring on the Fulham FC website homepage and all other advertising platforms associated with the club.

Bolton Wanderers have followed suit by securing sponsorship from Yingli Panels part of the Hanwha Group. Yingli Green Energy is the second biggest producer of panels in China and has been sponsoring football in Europe for some time, including Bayern Munich football club (FCB) and the forthcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. Solar companies’ sponsorship of football clubs and events in the UK and Europe is an ideal way to broaden the awareness of solar brands at this critical point in time and looks to be a growing trend.

However, one football club has found another way to improve its financial future using solar. Barnsley FC hired Solar Europa, a local solar energy company, to install a system on its south and east stands at Oakwell Ground. The panels, which cost the club in the region of £1m to install, will be used to power the buildings and the club is hoping to save tens of thousands of pounds with their on-grid system.

Don Rowing, General Manager of Oakwell said, “With energy costs spiralling and likely to continue that way, it makes good business sense to use the large amount of roof space available to us to save the club money and also to reduce our carbon footprint.”

Mr Rowing has a good point and it will be interesting to see if other clubs will follow. Barnsley FC has become the first football club in the country to be powered by solar energy and Solar Europa is now the installer of the first solar PV project to a UK FC, but this seems a no-brainer for football clubs in general. One of the challenges for solar today is finding suitable space to situate enough to make a genuine difference. It’s not difficult to imagine the potential real estate offered by the 100+ stadiums in England alone.

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1BOG - a strange acronym for a great idea

No, in spite of the acronym it’s not about recycling human waste! 1BOG stands for 1Block Off The Grid, and the idea is ‘Solar Power Community Purchasing’.

Installing Solar Power is notoriously complicated and expensive, not to mention the red tape involved, which is certainly one of the reasons that  the uptake has been slow in most countries around the world. 1BOG has been set up to break down this barrier and encourage more US inhabitants to go the solar route by helping them do so as part of a group, thus simplifying the process, improving negotiating power, and giving support on red tape issues.

They have just been acquired by Virgance, owners of Carrotmob, another community based idea for reducing CO2, and a company to watch over the next few years. Today I received an email saying that 1BOG has launched officially in no less than 20 different US cities, so they are really going for it from the outset.

In these troubled times, we are all looking to save money and even Barack Obama (who has obviously been reading Reduce Your Co2) is now telling the world that by investing in sustainable power generation, we can save money and do good for the planet. 1BOG helps reduce the up-front investment, one of the bigger blocks to moving over to Solar Power, and I for one hope that their communities spread broad and wide as fast as possible. In fact, I very much hope we will very soon be seeing them on this side of the pond.

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