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Solar Panel Group-Buy (Solarize) Program Pricing: Guide for Town Managers

Municipalities and nonprofits throughout the country have been promoting solar adoption through programs often called Solarize, group-buy or solar cooperatives. These programs focus on selecting a single installer and negotiating discount pricing for participants. 

But how does a municipality or nonprofit ensure that the price they negotiate is a good deal for the residents or members? This is especially challenging when publicly available solar pricing data is historical and therefore not a reflection of current prices.

Equipment quality affects group buy price

Enter EnergySage, the vendor-neutral online Solar Marketplace. Since EnergySage collects thousands of quotes from installers every day, we have our finger on the pulse of the solar market! Not only do these quotes include pricing, but also the specific solar equipment (type of panels and inverters). This level of detail is crucial in structuring solar program offers since they typically include pricing options for different equipment combinations.

For example, a Solarize program could include lower cost, lower efficiency panels at a set price for all residents of a community. Sometimes additional costs for certain types of equipment, such as upgrades to higher efficiency panels, are referred to as “adders.”

Market data improves solar co-op pricing

Having all of this rich market data at our fingertips begs the question: how does the pricing in group-buy programs compare to market averages?

We compared the published prices for these programs to EnergySage data for the same equipment. The results? Pricing in these programs is similar or slightly higher than the quotes that consumers would receive through EnergySage for the same equipment package during the same timeframe.

This means that even after the administrative burden of evaluating installer program proposals and negotiating fixed pricing for residents of your town, the ultimate savings offered to participants may be small or even negative.

As it turns out, installers who know they are competing for your business on EnergySage come to the table with offers that are already discounted. The EnergySage data proves that and a recent independent report from NREL also supports this claim.

Choice bolsters program results

Furthermore, 70% of customers that go solar on EnergySage do not choose the lowest price. Instead, they’re looking for a match to their specific preferences and property. There is no one-size-fits-all solar solution.

The Solar Marketplace allows for complete customization of quotes to be tailored to the customer’s individual needs, allowing for many combinations of financing, panels, equipment and installers compared to just one base package with limited adders.

So, do municipalities and nonprofits that are offering these programs have some fiduciary responsibility to the participants to actually deliver a deal? We think so. Even if it results in more solar adoption, marketing an illusive discount is not a fair practice and does a disservice to consumers and to the solar industry as a whole. EnergySage is committed to empowering consumers through objective information and price transparency.

As a solution to this problem, EnergySage is offering programs of this sort and access to our dataset to enable informed decisions. If you are considering organizing a group purchase program, please contact us in the form below and we’ll prepare a market analysis that you can use for structuring your program pricing.  

About EnergySage

EnergySage runs the largest, and only truly vendor-neutral, online solar marketplace. Developed in 2012 with funding from the US Department of Energy, EnergySage is dedicated to information, transparency and choice. Our suite of online tools and resources help consumers research and shop for solar.

Our rooftop solar marketplace presents property owners with multiple solar quotes from pre-screened installers in a unique apples-to-apples format, and provides live support from expert Solar Advisors. The Community Solar Marketplace provides community solar FAQs and connects customers with projects in their area.

In addition to making these tools publicly available, EnergySage works with a range of organizations – from utilities like National Grid to state agencies like The Connecticut Green Bank – to aid their audience in getting started with solar.

Want to learn more about group-buy solar programs, or pricing on EnergySage?

Contact the author:

John Gingrich
SVP, Strategic Partnerships

Curious about working with us?

EnergySage is the partner of choice for municipalities. View our partner overview PDF for more detail about how EnergySage partnerships work.