Minnesota solar companies: What to look for
If you’re comparing Minnesota solar companies to help you make the transition to renewable energy, you may have wondered if there’s some kind of “solar installer certification.” It turns out there is, and Wolf Track Energy has one.
But there are other licenses out there that a solar contractor will be required to have, depending on where you live or the particulars of the project.
Minnesota, for instance, requires solar panel installers to be licensed electrical contractors. Obviously, we have one of those licenses. And in some cases, a residential building contractor license could be required for the installation. Good news: We have one of those too!
It’s important for prospective solar users to know that their chosen contractor knows what they’re doing. Going solar is big investment, and consumers rightly want anyone altering their home or business to be competent.
Licenses and certifications can help prove a company’s expertise in a given field, and they can assure customers they won’t be on the hook for shoddy work.
In this blog, we’ll dig into the license requirements for solar installers in Minnesota.
Licensing vs. certification
First, let’s make a distinction between licenses and certifications. Licenses are generally required to perform certain work, while certifications are considered voluntary.
Obtaining a license in a particular field means you have some knowledge and skills necessary for that work.
State and local governments create licenses to “to protect consumers from unsafe practices and protect the reputation of the industry, as improper installation may create safety risks or result in poor equipment performance,” according to Solar Energy International.
Something as small as not using the right wires can have major consequences. (Hint: The wires will be outside so they need to be rated to withstand the elements.) A licensed contractor should have the training to avoid a mistake like that.
The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry keeps track of contractor licenses in the state. There, you can find our licenses on file.
State law requires “businesses and individuals that contract to perform electrical work” in Minnesota to have an electrical contractor license. Installing a solar power system is considered “electrical work,” so we’re required to have a license.
To have an electrical contractor license, we have to identify a responsible license individual that meets certain requirements, provide proof of public liability insurance and submit an application with a fee.
We’re also required to obtain a $25,000 surety bond. That’s a “promise to be liable for the debt, default or failure of another,” according to the National Association of Surety Bond Producers.
Such a bond ensures that we adhere to good business practices. As Surety Solutions says, someone can make a claim against our bond if we don’t.
Residential building licenses
While state law is clear that solar panel installation requires an electrical contractor license, the situation is a bit more fuzzy with the residential building contractor license.
The DLI says it has considered attaching non-electrical components to a roof as work done by a “specialty contractor.” State law includes exemptions for specialty contractors, so “no state residential building contractor, remodeler, or roofer license is required for most installations and municipalities can grant a building permit to the solar contractor.”
But a residential building contractor license would be needed if a residential roof’s support system needs to be reinforced to hold up the panels, the DLI says.
Since we have that license, people who hire us won’t have to worry about whether it will be required for their project.
Moreover, the residential building contractor license carries additional protections for consumers. Licensees must pay into what’s known as the Contractor Recovery Fund, which “reimburses consumers who have suffered a financial loss as a result of a licensed residential building contractor or residential remodeler who has engaged in fraudulent, deceptive or dishonest practices, converted funds or failed to perform,” according to the DLI.
The bottom line: By hiring Wolf Track Energy, you’ll have some extra assurance that you won’t be left with subpar work and no way to recoup funds. Of course, we always strive to do the best job we can on every project, but consumers can always use some extra peace of mind.
While solar installers are at least required to have an electrical contractor license in Minnesota, industry certifications can act as a “cherry on top” to show off their expertise.
That’s the case with NABCEP, also known as the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. That’s the leading professional certification board in the renewable energy field. It works with experts in the industry to develop certifications and credentials.
Wolf Track Energy’s founder, Jesse Fette, is one of less than 30 people across Minnesota with the NABCEP’s PV installation professional certification. That validates his knowledge and competence to perform “PV design, installation, operations, commissioning and maintenance.”
That all sounds nice for us, but it can also make a difference to your pocketbook. Minnesota Power’s SolarSense program, which offers rebates for solar installation projects, requires that you use a solar installer certified by NABCEP or another organization called UL.
We know from experience that the Minnesota Power rebate is a big deal for people making the transition to solar energy. After all, it can knock off thousands of dollars from a project’s initial price tag. Using our certification, we’ve helped many customers save money on their installation.
Now that you know a little more about solar installer certification and licensing, you should have a better idea of what to look for when you’re in the market for solar panels.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce also offers some helpful tips for shopping for solar contractors. Not to toot our own horn too loudly, but we think we’ll check a lot of the boxes. And we think our credentials will give you a lot of confidence in our work.
Give us a call if you’re interested in going solar and want to learn more about our company.
Read more from Northland’s solar energy experts:
- Solar panel warranty: How to protect your investment
- Getting solar quotes? Here’s how to read your proposal
- Solar tax credits and you: What’s in the new climate change bill
- Designing a new home with solar panels: A guide to maximizing your system
- Is my roof good for solar? Find out here