We are happy with the panels we installed and with the service we received from Solar Energy. But if you are looking for a perfect contractor in this field you are not going to find one. If you want to know would we choose Solar Energy again, the answer is definitely yes. So this review should be seen as very positive in context.
Of all the firms we worked with, Solar Energy of Illinois was the best and the easiest to work with. To begin with, it was very hard to get anyone else to give us a quote. The communication by the folks running the City of Chicago's group buy was abysmal. That made it impossible for us to work with them or determine whether they were trustworthy. The availability and helpfulness of James Lampasona, our Solar Energy salesperson, won us over in the end. He didn't pressure us and he answered every question we had when we asked it.
Once we had gone through all the paperwork--and there is a lot of it! the installation was quick and unobtrusive and there were no hitches in the process. James was willing to come over numerous times to help with completing forms and he remains easily available and willing to help now months after the panels were installed.
Having said that, there are two things we wish were a little different. First, we had a great quote from Solar Energy--about $1000 less than the City of Chicago group buy. It wasn't till shortly before installation that we discovered that while Solar Energy was offering us top of the line US made panels, they were going to install a less than ideal inverter (not the top of the line Enphase micro-inverters which invert each panel separately so there is no loss of power from partially shaded arrays). We discovered this through a conversation with Juhl Solar--an official contractor for the City of Chicago's group buy--when we were comparing bids and they asked us exactly what our equipment was. James immediately offered to change the bid for another $1,000 to get the Enphase inverters. In the end, Solar Energy cost us the same as the Chicago group buy for a more or less identical system. So no harm no foul, but we would have ended up producing less power with the original inverters and we weren't savvy enough to know the difference.
Second, after installation, we discovered that Integrys (our electric provider) had not carried out some orders for us and we were not being net metetred. We are not sure we were compensated for the tiny bit of power we generated from Nov. - Jan. A matter of perhaps $30. We had to discover that error ourselves and it was only luck that allowed me to find it before we lost a lot of revenue. A suggestion for Solar Energy in future deals is to follow up to make sure that power is actually being metered and the whole billing part is working out.