Solar Industry News Updates: September 2020

Quickly catch up on the latest solar industry news…

Solar Module Price Fluctuations

Solar suppliers may be noticing recent pricing swings. Several events have led to price fluctuations in the solar supply market:

  1. In mid-July, a series of flash explosions at a GCL Silicon polysilicon plant reportedly took down more than 10% of the global supply of polysilicon. Polysilicon is the base material for making mono- and poly-crystalline modules. This shortage was almost immediately followed by a 60% increase in the price of polysilicon.
  2. In another blow to the polysilicon supply, severe flooding in southeastern China forced the closure of Tongwei’s polysilicon factory in Sichuan.
  3. Sourcing raw materials, specifically glass, has become a much longer process since the COVID-19 outbreak began. Glass shortages are resulting in higher prices and longer procurement windows for manufacturers.

These events are leading fluctuating pricing within the supply chain. Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables estimates that bifacial module pricing will stabilize by 2021.

26% Federal Tax Solar Credit – Act Now!

If you are considering adding a solar energy system to your commercial facility, do not let the market’s price fluctuations dissuade you from moving forward. There is a generous 26% U.S. federal Investment Tax Credit available for 2020 projects. In 2021, this credit steps down to 22%, eventually dropping to just 10% in 2022.

To be eligible for the 26% credit, construction must commence (i.e. physical work start) by Dec. 31, 2020, and the project must be completed by Dec. 31, 2023. There are options available to purchase now but not fully build the project until a later time. As a solar EPC firm, Melink Solar can help you navigate this process and determine what is in your company’s best interest — contact us today

Solar Plant Growth

According to a survey of U.S. solar industry professionals, large solar plants have a longer operational life expectancy and are cheaper to run, citing the following:

  • Reductions in up-front expenses
  • Changes in capacity factors, financing costs, and tax rates
  • Improvements in project life
  • Operating expenditures

The assumed life of projects now averages 32.5 years, up from 21.5 years in 2007. This expanded lifeline comes with many benefits for solar plant owners. Read more on this topic.

Solar in the 2020 Election

The climate crisis is expected to be an important issue in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Most supportive renewable policy in the U.S. is coming at the state level, and many are advocating the need for support at the federal level. President Donald Trump has generally held an unfavorable view of supporting renewables. Presidential candidate Joe Biden supports a national plan to convert the U.S. to 100% clean energy by 2035. Read more about the candidates’ solar policy.

Melink Solar Featured on 2020 Top Solar Contractors List

Solar Power World magazine’s Top Solar Contractors annual list includes Cincinnati-based solar installer.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Cincinnati, Ohio — Although the COVID-19 pandemic is the immediate crisis, mitigating climate change is also an urgent issue. Solar installations are one way to help reduce greenhouse gases from fossil fuel-based power generation. Solar Power World has recognized the efforts of solar contractors across the United States in its 2020 Top Solar Contractors list, where local solar installer Melink Solar achieved a rank of 69 out of 407 companies.

Top Solar Contractors

The Top Solar Contractors list is developed each year by Solar Power World to honor the work of solar installers big and small. Solar firms in the utility, commercial and residential markets are ranked by number of kilowatts installed in the previous year. Companies are grouped and listed by specific service (developers, electrical subcontractors, EPCs, installation subcontractors, rooftop installers), markets and states.

“The Solar Power World team is so pleased to highlight more than 400 companies on the 2020 Top Solar Contractors list, especially during this unprecedented time,” said Kelsey Misbrener, senior editor of Solar Power World. “All contractors featured on the 2020 list reported strong 2019 installation numbers and are continuing to stand tall this year.”

This year’s collection of more than 400 Top Solar Contractors is facing obstacles that the industry has never seen before. The first quarter of 2020 was the country’s biggest ever capacity gain, with 3.6 GW of new solar capacity added. However, COVID-19 impacts slowed the market in Q2.

Melink Solar installed 27,266.8 kW (27.2 MW) of solar power in 2019. Since its founding, the company has installed more than 65 MW of solar, equivalent to 215,000 solar panels. Melink Solar is a commercial solar EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) firm offering turnkey solutions with projects across the U.S. The firm designs solar systems, procures all labor and supplies, constructs the solar array, monitors performance and provides remote and field troubleshooting assistance.

To learn more about Melink Solar, please visit www.melinkcorp.com/solar.

About Melink

Melink Corporation is a global provider of energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions for commercial buildings with five offerings: Intelli-Hood® Kitchen Ventilation Controls, HVAC Test & Balance, Solar PV, Geothermal HVAC, and PositiV® Building Health Monitor. For more than 30 years, Melink has helped companies save energy, increase profitability, and make the world more sustainable. In 2018, Melink became an ESOP and is now 100% employee-owned.

About Solar Power World

Solar Power World is the leading online and print resource for news and information regarding solar installation, development and technology. Since 2011, SPW has helped U.S. solar contractors — including installers, developers and EPCs in all markets — grow their businesses and do their jobs better.

Q&A: What Is Net Metering?

If you are considering solar for your commercial building, an important concept to understand is net metering, whether it applies in your state, and how it works with your utility company.

What is Net Metering?

Net metering is a billing incentive that offers credits to the owner when a solar PV system produces more electricity than consumed. Any excess power generated through solar feeds back into the utility grid, thus qualifying the owner for a “credit” on his or her electric bill. Think of “debits” as energy used from the grid, or any electricity that solar power cannot cover during a given period.

What is net metering? Day to night graphic of energy flow from solar panel to grid
This animation illustrates the flow of energy production when electricity is used over the day and night. During the day, the owner generates credits when the building’s solar panels produce more power than needed (net metering). The meter spins backwards, and excess electricity gets sent to the grid. At night, the building’s electricity needs aren’t fulfilled by solar due to lack of sunlight. Its power is therefore sourced, or debited, from the grid.

How Does Net Metering Work?

  • Credits = Power produced by solar
  • Debits = Electricity consumed from the grid

The net of these two is how net metering functions, factoring in whether the owner is charged for grid usage, or owed credits for solar production.

Think of the daily variations of energy usage in the typical home. Assume that residents typically consume most of their electricity in the mornings and evenings, before and after work. If there is little or no solar production during the time when electricity is needed, energy will come from the grid. Hence, debits — or the costs one would otherwise see on the utility bill.

Solar energy systems usually hit peak production in the afternoon when sun exposure is maximized. So, what happens to all the solar generation during the day if the power is not used or needed? The excess solar power spins the meter backwards and sends energy to the grid. Hence, these credits serve to help offset your electricity bill.

Why is Net Metering Important?

Net metering ensures the owner is credited for those natural swings in daily production. Depending on your building’s energy usage and time of peak demand, net metering can help maximize the owner’s savings from solar power. Understanding net metering laws can help determine the ideal size of the PV system, after factoring in daily, weekly, monthly, or annual estimated energy usage.

If you are considering switching to solar, these net metering regulations should guide the solar company to design your system in the most cost-effective way. After evaluating your electricity usage, the solar provider should factor in net metering compensation to get the best return on your investment, depending on how much PV generation you prefer.

How Does Net Metering Compensation Work?

Forms of compensation will vary by state and utility company. Generally, the owner should be charged only for the net electricity used by the end of the month. In some instances, if more power is generated by solar than consumed over a month or year, the utility will roll over those credits to the next period. In other scenarios, the consumer will be compensated at the retail or wholesale rate at the end of a given cycle.

Consumers must elect to receive credits in a contract with their utility provider. Tariff sheets, or compensation rates, are provided by the utility and explain whether solar overproduction results in the following:

  • Monetary bill credits
  • Check payments
  • kWh credits to offset future consumption from the grid

It is important to fully understand your state’s policies regarding net metering compensation. EnergySage explains how net metering rules can vary: “If you do generate more electricity than you use in a year, utilities in some states will let you carry credits over into future years, while others will reduce your credits.”

Do not let credits confuse you for cash payments, unless you live in a state that allows for that type of compensation. While you can stock up on credits to cover power you may need from the grid throughout the month or year, do not assume the utility companies will be sending a check covering the full retail rate.

Does Every State Have Net Metering?

While net metering is authorized in most states, there are different approaches to how they distribute credits, assign eligible technology, and handle capacity limits. The National Conference of State Legislatures expands on state-specific laws and advises one cannot make assumptions about compensation without digging into state rules. For example, “California credits excess generation to a customer’s next bill at retail rate. After a 12-month period, customers can choose whether to roll credits over indefinitely or receive a payment for credits at the wholesale rate. If no option is selected, credits are granted to the utility with no customer compensation.” In this case, the owner can opt in for credits at the end of the year, but it will be at the wholesale rate. Month to month, however, they receive credits at the retail rate.

Net metering policies were originally intended for areas with lower solar adoption. As more and more states become reliant on clean energy, we can expect some changes to occur. Regardless of your state or utility’s current policy, it’s important to understand how different factors can affect your long-term savings when installing solar panel systems.

Does Net Metering Eliminate Utility Bills?

A common misconception is that if you can attain Net Zero Energy for your building, you will not receive a utility bill. This is false, as the owner is still tied to the utility company in some capacity. If you are producing a lot of solar power, the building consumes the amount of electricity needed, and the remaining power shoots back onto the grid. Credits are accumulated through net metering and impact whether your utility bill is $0, or a lesser amount than in the past.

Sure, you may owe less to the utility, and the bill may look different depending on how much energy solar can offset. However, in most cases, solar will supply as much electricity as possible, and the remaining power is met by the grid.

How Does Net Demand Work?

The following chart shows a live example of how net metering works when savings occur with solar PV generation. These daily variations in current demand (debits), layered against solar PV power (credits), result in the building’s net demand. 

The solar energy system at this site overproduces during the first two days since there is ample sunlight and little demand. The utility is crediting the owner’s account for that overproduction, which is then used to offset the bill when the system is under-producing.

Net metering occurs in the areas that display overproduction from solar. Excess electricity causes the meter to spin backwards. In these cases, solar generates more power than the actual usage. That excess power is sent back to the grid, while “credits” accumulate on the account.

Savings occur in every green area where solar produces power. For example, although the system is not overproducing during the last day, solar is still helping to offset part of the demand costs, or “debits.”

Net Metering in Office Building

WEEKEND: On Saturday and Sunday, the building load is very low. Solar power is generated throughout the day with plenty of sun, which causes a lot of energy to be exported to the grid (accumulating credits). Credits are being used up at night while there is still some electricity load.
MONDAY: The building energy load spikes, causing debits on the account. Solar generation doesn’t show a consistent curve since it’s cloudy outside. For the most part, the building is pulling power from the grid (at a reduced rate), and energy is exported for a small amount of time in the middle of the day.
TUESDAY: A nice, sunny day. In the morning, the building starts pulling power from the grid as the energy load shoots up when workers arrive. Then, the load from the grid starts to slowly reduce as some of the electricity is produced by the solar array. Then, eventually, the building exports power back to the grid (accumulating credits), before the cycle reverses again.
WEDNESDAY: No net-metering occurs because of the lack of sun. However, the load from the grid is reduced and savings still occur. The net of the debits and credits appears in the middle.

To download the chart, click here.

How Do I Learn More About Net Metering?

Net metering can be a confusing subject. The experts at Melink Solar & Geo can help you navigate the jargon and determine the best solution for your business. Contact us today.

Beyond the Pandemic — Shifting to Sustainable, Clean Energy

As devastating as COVID-19 has been, there’s a different lens from which we can view its effect on the world. How can businesses become more resilient? While it’s hard not to focus on just the next few months, it’s important to think about the kind of world we want to live in after this crisis ends.

One immutable constant is great leaders always want to prosper. Despite whatever challenges, they will continue to seek opportunities to grow their top and bottom lines. They will continue to build their brands and organizations for long term success.

Given you may be one of these leaders, there’s a growing secret across the U.S. and around the world. Solar power is slowly but surely becoming the way of the future – and businesses are primed to reap the benefits. If you sense shifting to clean energy is an intimidating undertaking, the following points should empower you more than anything.

Ballasted mount on flat roof for solar power

Reasons to Consider Clean Energy

#1 Reduce Electricity Costs and Invest in Long-Term Savings
Using solar will lower the costs on your electric bill. Sure, the initial cost to install solar may be your biggest barrier. However, if you account for your average monthly electric bill cost, and budget for that expense on an annualized basis – after five, 10, 15, 20 years, the amount paid to the utility is a daunting reality that can be mitigated. Not to mention we should also factor in future rate increases over a 30-year period. The return on investment and savings over the lifespan of a solar panel system, depending on your energy consumption and the estimated production of the system, is a factor worth considering.  

#2 Hedge Against Volatile Energy Costs
Purchasing solar can be much like investing in insurance. People pay for insurance because of the uncertainties of accident, injury, or death. Similarly, there are unknowns about the price of electricity through your utility and what it will cost down the road. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, over the last decade, the average price of electricity has increased about 4.6%. However, over those ten years, the standard deviation of commercial electricity prices was 0.24%. This signifies the great variability of energy costs over the last decade. Instead of relying on the ever-changing lows and highs of electric power prices, you can create a more predictable budget by locking into your rate for solar. Investing in solar can help companies avoid rising energy costs, and the uncertainty that comes with depending on power from the grid. 

#3 Boost Public Relations and Attract Talent
As more and more companies switch to clean energy solutions, they further enhance their brands. In an article by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, they indicate how practicing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reaps multiple benefits, such as engaged employees, loyal customers, and positive public attention. In fact, it’s a purchase driver for many. “In a Nielson survey, 66% of participants said they pay more for products and services from socially responsible companies.” People are simply targeting more businesses that strive for better Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) practices. It captures the interest of younger generations, brings talent, and drives morale within the workforce. Internally and externally, people are motivated by businesses that look out for the greater good.

#4 Improve Your Property Value
Think about buying and owning a house. There are various ways in which one can invest in its worth and longevity. Perhaps it’s an addition that makes the house more attractive. These investments should increase the value of your home or building when you go to sell it. People decide to stop renting because, well…it’s money down the drain. Like buying a house, when you purchase solar, you become an owner of your electric bills. Just like renovations maximize a home’s value, installing solar and producing your own energy appeals to buyers, employees, and consumers alike. An article from Money.com references a study provided by Zillow: “On average, solar panels raise a home’s value by 4.1% across the U.S. — that’s a boost of $9,274 on a $226,300 home.” Even more so with larger buildings, there’s always going to be operation costs that go into running a facility. Just like the importance of fixing a leak or fine-tuning the plumbing, investing in solar relieves the long-term expenses of running a commercial building, thus making it more valuable. 

#5 Commit to Sustainability
There’s no way to avoid it. Helping the environment and leaving the Earth in better condition for future generations is a driving force for companies to consider clean energy. Businesses now have a duty to pay attention to CSR. In an article published by RE100, numerous companies are taking action — and explain why:
IKEA has committed to “generate as much renewable energy as the total energy it consumes in its operations by 2020, as well as to consume 100% renewable electricity by 2025.” Why is that their goal? “(Our) investments into wind and solar energy generation contribute to the shift to a low carbon economy and, from a business perspective, help to secure our future as we become energy independent,” says Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer.
AB InBev recognizes that the “shift to renewables has the potential to drive a remarkable transformation in infrastructure, not only in the U.S. and Europe but also across emerging nations around the world. They have “pledged to secure 100% of purchased electricity from renewable sources by 2025,” says Brian Perkins, Global VP Budweiser.
Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Strategist, Rob Bernard, makes a strong statement when asked why the company wanted to be 100% powered by renewables (achieved in 2014): “We believe there is a clear and urgent need for society to address climate change, and we recognize that our responsibility begins with our own actions. We are working to consistently reduce our carbon footprint, and we are committed to taking significant action to shape our energy future by developing clean, low-cost sources.”

Investing in solar is a commitment to cleaner air and a brighter future. It’s a commitment to not only maintain the health of our planet but to sustain the economy.

Section 201 Commercial Solar Panel Insstallation

Is Clean Energy Worth the Investment?

Convinced yet?  If not, compare solar power to other investments that may be in your portfolio.

It has been estimated that the Internal Rate of Return (IRR) – a metric used to quantify the profitability of long-term capital projects – can be greater for solar systems than traditional equity investments in the stock market. Taking into consideration initial installation costs, scale of the project, future electrical price estimates, and so on, calculations for an IRR over a 30-year period typically range between 10-13% for solar, versus 7.4% for the S&P 500.

Of course, it’s important to assess the value of installation, or Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE), which quantifies the cost of the electricity produced over a solar system’s lifespan – usually up to 30 years. This metric helps directly compare what you would otherwise be paying for utility charges. Again, this is where locking in a predictable rate can be crucial. One can expect to significantly gain from an investment like solar because it provides a solution to fighting rising electrical prices. There’s no longer a need to depend on the utility’s energy costs. 

If you’re a business owner or key decision maker in your company, these should be highly compelling reasons to consider clean energy for your facility footprint.

In times of uncertainty, it’s our responsibility more than ever to fool-proof our infrastructure and buildings to withstand the social and economic costs of pandemics, global warming, and other unpredictable occurrences. Furthermore, there’s a need to think about the greater good of our decisions, their impacts, and what our world can become beyond the pandemic.  

Tariffs Impacting Growth of U.S. Solar Industry

The growth of solar in the United States continues to be prohibited by tariffs placed on the industry in 2018. However, despite the tariffs, the commercial solar growth forecast is not all doom and gloom.

Tariffs and the Commercial Solar Industry

While tariffs may be prohibiting the overall solar industry from quickly growing in the U.S., the commercial sector is experiencing steady growth.

Wood Mackenzie reports costs for utility-scale solar engineering, procurement and construction (EPC services like what Melink Solar offers) fell by more than 50% from 2013 to 2019 in the U.S. Moreover, Business Energy Investment Tax Credits (ITC), as well as state and federal financing programs, available for commercial projects can offset the tariffs’ impact.

Likewise, a business’ investment in solar can reduce its carbon footprint by 10% to 100%, lock in its energy rate for the next 30 years, and support its long-term corporate social responsibility goals.

Understanding the Tariffs

The tariffs impacting the solar industry vary by amount and regulation.

Section 201

The most well-known solar tariff is Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974. Section 201 composes a four-year program targeting imported solar crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules, These tariffs — starting at 30% and dropping by five percentage points each year through 2021 — were designed to boost U.S. manufacturing and to lock out unfair competition from foreign countries, primarily China.

Section 232

Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 declares a 25% tariff on steel and 10% tariff on aluminum. In turn, this increases the cost of solar racking, wiring, and ground mount posts.

Section 301

Lastly, Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 taxes U.S.imports from China. In regard to solar, the tariffs target companies that manufacture products with semiconductors from China. This plays into solar inverters and modules.

The Tariffs’ Impact

Ultimately, the tariffs have slowed the flow of lower-cost product available to U.S. developers, keeping the overall cost of solar projects cost-prohibitive to many, especially in the residential sector. Consider the average homeowner: the higher cost of a home solar project due to tariffs does not make the technology as easily attainable.

In fact, according to energy research firm Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, solar modules imported into the U.S. are 45% more expensive than those sold into Europe and Australia.

The tariffs (and the resulting lost projects due to the cost of investment) equate to 10.5 gigawatts in missed solar energy installations, according to the U.S. Solar Industries Association, the leading solar trade association in the U.S.

The Future of U.S. Solar Tariffs

At this time, approximately 98% of solar panels and their components are manufactured outside the U.S., according to the Congressional Research Service. In light of the tariffs, many solar manufacturers are circumventing the restrictions by cutting prices and moving production factories from China to Section 201-exempt countries such as Mexico and the Philippines.

Currently, the U.S. administration is conducting a midterm review of the tariffs. Experts suggest that a complete removal of the tariffs would result in a 30% drop in solar pricing, potentially creating an influx of large-scale solar projects for developers.

Re-Deployable Commercial Solar Systems

There are many barriers for property owners who are considering adding commercial solar capabilities to their buildings. Barriers may include installation cost, installation time, debt financing, and structural integrity of the roof. To help combat these obstacles, solar installation providers are trying to find the best ways to reduce hurdles and make commercial solar photovoltaic (PV) more appealing.

For instance, a few companies around the globe are rolling out re-deployable solar “pods,” modular systems that can be set up in a fraction of the time compared to traditional solar installs.

One such company is Scatec Solar, a Norwegian developer specializing in emerging markets. Scatec has designed a 200-kilowatt (kW) containerized solar PV system. Crews can install about one megawatt (MW) per week in this fashion. According to Scatec, the most cost-effective lease contract would have a power-purchase agreement period around 10 years. However, for higher rates, this could be shortened to as little as two years. Once the period is up, the panels can be removed and deployed elsewhere.

Another example involves the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which has announced funding for an Australian startup, Solpod. As part of their re-deployable solar strategy, Solpod will run a trial of re-deployable systems at 25 sites for a total of 2.5 MW. Additionally, Solpod’s racking system is fixed to the roof with an industrial-strength adhesive, eliminating the need to make rooftop penetrations or to install heavy ballast blocks on the roof.

Re-deployable commercial solar system on business rooftop
Re-Deployable Commercial Solar System on Rooftop
Photo Credit: Solpod

Potentially, this design could sway a concerned building owner’s perspective, especially if the roof needs replaced in a few years or if they plan to move locations. Solpod’s product can even be chartered for a period to match a business’ lease, if renting their space.

So what does this mean for the future of solar? Simply put, these modular, re-deployable solar systems could be a groundbreaking install method for commercial properties everywhere.


Solar Industry News Updates: November 2019

Quickly catch up on the latest solar industry news…

Bifacial Solar Panels:

In January 2018, the Trump Administration introduced new trade tariffs targeted against China. The tariffs started at 30% and are set to step down by 5% every year until they expire in 2022. In June, the U.S. removed the 25% tariff on bifacial solar panels, as there is no major U.S. manufacturer producing them; therefore, there is no industry to protect. Four months later, the Trump Administration announced that effective October 28, 2018, the exemption would be rescinded.

In the latest twist, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has successfully won a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the withdrawal of the Section 201 import tariffs exemption on the importation of bifacial solar modules. The TRO is effective for 14 days through Nov. 21 unless the court rules on the matter earlier.

Bifacial modules offer the potential for lower LCOE (Levelized Cost of Electricity), due to higher module output with both sides of the solar panel generating electricity. Learn more about bifacial modules and Melink’s testing.


SunPower:

SunPower announced on November 11 that it plans to spin off its manufacturing business with a nearly $300 million investment by China’s Tianjin Zhonghuan Semiconductor. The move would effectively split the company into two: one part focused on overseas solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing, the other focused on distributing and installing solar panels and energy storage.

Ultimately, the partnership with Tianjin Zhonghuan Semiconductor to manufacture modules will form a new company, Maxeon Solar, that will be headquartered in Singapore. You can read more about this development here.


PV Patent Infringement:

Hanwha Q Cells attempted to shut competitors out of the U.S. market by filing a complaint in March that Longi Solar, Jinko Solar, and REC Group were all infringing on a patent filed in 2008. It now appears that all three companies will emerge victorious, as the case is now stayed with a judgment of non-infringement expected in the coming weeks, according to a filing from the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Hanwha does have a few avenues to challenge the outcome, and the company stated in an email that it plans to “immediately appeal” the determination to commissioners once possible.

The Melink Umbrella

Are you an existing customer or follower of Melink?  I’m guessing the answer is “yes” if you’re reading this, so what all falls under the “Melink” umbrella? If you’re in the Cincinnati, OH region perhaps we’re best known for our super-green energy efficient HQ building, with a second on the way, or Steve Melink’s advocacy in the region surrounding energy efficiency and sustainability.  Those things help to show who we are as a company, however it isn’t always clear in what we do as a business to support this mission of changing the world one building at time. 

To help illustrate the portfolio of offerings at Melink, pretend for a moment you own a hotel, restaurant or operate an entity involving a commercial kitchen facility.  Prior to leaving for work in the morning you utilize your smartphone to check if your building is healthy for your employees and customers by swiping open your PositiV app to check the latest building health makers of indoor CO2, temperature, humidity and building pressure.  You notice that your building pressure has been trending in the negative for the past week and notify your Melink Test & Balance account manager that you’d like an investigative visit to determine the root cause and corrective measures prior to big event coming up.  You meet your Melink field-technician onsite who identifies the outside air damper on your RTU has been locked shut and there’s an insufficient amount of fresh outside air being supplied to your building.  This negative air pressure situation would have been substantially worse, however you have a self-learning adaptive control system that adjust the kitchen exhaust fan speeds in accordance with the cooking loads in real time.  Your Intelli-Hood control system automatically turns itself on in case the prep crew starts cooking without the fans and will preemptively warn your team if there’s an issue with the exhaust fan to mitigate risk from fire.

Knowing your building is back to optimal conditions you head to the back office to review your utility bill statements and prepare payments.  You’re sure there’s a billing error, however you remember this past month your new rooftop mounted solar system has been installed and commissioned resulting in 40% decline in your electrical bill.  Your gas bill for operations in the winter time has never been much of a concern since your buildings geothermal HVAC system is utilizing the ground underneath your parking lot as natural heat sink rather than using gas to boil water for your HVAC units.  In addition, you have a waste water reclamation system to extract the heat in the water being dumped in the sewer to preheat your domestic hot water tank. 

Welcome to the Melink umbrella.  While not all customers have the potential to benefit from the full suite of our offerings, these complementary business units make us a stronger partner for our customers as they invest in business growth in a responsible, sustainable manner. 

Customer Experience – The Key Differentiator

Good is no longer good enough! It seems it was only yesterday that every business claimed the key to winning customers was the quality of product or service they deliver. Here at Melink, we’re changing the game to focus on the customer experience! According to a Walker study, by the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. So, what is customer experience you ask? Customer experience is your customers’ perception of how the company treats them. These perceptions affect their behaviors and build memories and feelings, and may drive their loyalty. In other words, if they like you and continue to like you, they are going to do business with you and recommend you to the others. With customer experience being the new battlefield, companies are changing their approach, offerings, and business practices. Sales teams are working harder to learn their customers and their customer’s business, so they can create the “wow”. Hotel managers, restaurant chains, and even doctors’ offices are focused on creating an experience that knocks their customers socks off, instead of just standard practices.

These days, social media gives the consumer a lot of power and impact. There’s an instant feedback loop and the cluster of data starts to create the company’s reputation. For example, if you get on Amazon to buy a new bike for your son, you’re likely going to check the performance stars and the customer reviews. Any of those reviews can be the difference between you purchasing that bike and moving on to a different bike. If you’re looking for a surgeon and every website has them at 3 out of 5 stars, you’re likely going to move on to the next guy. He may be the best surgeon in the land, but his rude receptionist and office staff have poor bedside manner and make people miserable when they go in to see him. If you go to a fast-food burger joint, how likely is it that you’re going to write a positive Yelp review if you pull up to the drive thru, order your food, pay the correct amount, get the correct change and correct order, and you leave in a timely manner? Probably never! They didn’t go above and beyond and create the “wow”! If you want to improve the customer experience, there must be a “wow”! Recently I went through a drive thru myself and was caught off guard with my experience. When I pulled up it was raining. Normally I would get soaked reaching out to hand over the money. This time the cashier stuck an umbrella out the window, so I wouldn’t get drenched. Super small, super easy, but I was impressed! I’ve never seen it before in my time on this earth and he was focused on my experience! I did write a review and I tipped a drive-thru cashier for the first time!

Millennials are changing the game and companies need to embrace it. Sure, the entitlement is out of control, but the business practice changes are not all bad. If you’re focusing only on your product or service and not how your customer feels about the entire experience, you’re in trouble! Some of the large hotel companies are incentivizing their General Managers on customer experience and guest loyalty. The baby-boomers want to talk, interact, have face-to-face experiences with nice people. The millennials want to check-in swiftly to the hotel with no hiccups and have issues resolved quickly. Management needs to address all their consumer personas in a unique way to setup the individual customer experiences for success.

What happens if you fail to provide a positive customer experience? According to a recent study, 67% of customers mention bad experiences as a reason for churn and only 1 in 26 unhappy customers complain. That means companies not focused on the customer experience will lose customers well after it’s too late! Most of this is the result of what I refer to as “sales autopilot”. When you’re there trying to make it look like your product is perfect for them, without the data, you end up losing trust with them. Trust, brand and customer experience are all built on honesty. And honesty is knowing when your product won’t be a perfect fit for everyone. Therefore it’s so important to stop selling and start solving!

Since most companies will be expected to compete mainly on customer experience, organizations like Melink that focus on customer experience will stand out from the noise and win loyal customers over. One thing is for sure, if you want your customer to have an excellent customer experience and create a “wow” you must know your customers better than ever before! Here at Melink, my team and I are completing customer profiles and personas to improve individual experiences. Once you know your customers well enough, you can use that knowledge to personalize every interaction. Customers these days have more power and choice than ever before. Thus, we are responsible for understanding and acknowledging their needs. When people ask what we do, it shouldn’t be Test & Balance, Demand-Controlled Kitchen Ventilation (DCKV), Solar, or Geothermal, it should be creating the best customer experience in renewable and energy reduction markets for our customers!

Solar PV Module Prices About To Drop Over 30%

Over the last five years, commercial Solar PV prices have dropped by 58%, making the renewable source of solar energy more accessible to the average consumer. And with recent news from China, we know solar module prices are about to plummet once again. Earlier this year, you might have heard about the recent tariff on solar modules and thought to yourself that now may not be a good time to invest in solar for your business, but that is simply not the case now. The Chinese government recently announced an abrupt withdrawal of support for their solar PV market, which will lead to installed capacity decreasing by 30-40% this year. China has halted approvals of new subsidized utility-scale solar plants and will limit the amount of smaller-scale distributed generation installed by shrinking subsidies it provides to solar generators.

The reduction in installed capacity is expected to be around 20 gigawatts. To put this into perspective the U.S. only installed 10.6 gigawatts of solar in 2017! This decision by the Chinese government is going to cause a huge global oversupply of modules. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has predicted this surplus in available modules will result in a 34% decline in multicrystalline solar module prices. This will likely completely counteract the 30% tariff implemented earlier this year and we are expecting to see the results of this in Q4 of 2018 and Q1 of 2019.

The Chinese government’s abrupt withdrawal of support for China’s solar PV industry is going to flood the global market with lower priced solar PV modules. If you want to take advantage of these ultra-low prices while there is more supply than demand, you will need to start your planning now. To receive trusted and certified assistance, contact us today for a free quote and financial analysis.