David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Published on October 20, 2021 Updated on November 24, 2023
$45,000 - $140,000
$400,000 - $1.5 million p.a.
Time to build
$40,000 - $150,000 p.a.
Solar is a growing industry with a bright future. The United States has installed 108.7 gigawatts-DC (GWdc) of solar PV capacity, enough to power 18.9 million homes. The cost of installing solar panels has also dropped by more than 70% over the last 10 years, contributing to the industry’s steady growth. With such impressive statistics, now is a great time to start a solar panel installation business.
However, like any business, building a commercial solar installation company from the ground up requires proper planning and preparation. Lucky for you, this step-by-step guide provides all the insight and information you need to get on the road to entrepreneurial success!
Looking to register your business? A limited liability company (LLC) is the best legal structure for new businesses because it is fast and simple.
What’s more, the industry is expected to quadruple from 2020 to 2030. The driving force behind this is the government’s clean energy initiatives and growing concerns about climate change.
For instance, the government has initiated the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) scheme. Through this plan, consumers get a tax credit equivalent to 26% of the cost of installing a solar panel system from 2020 to 2022 and 22% in 2023.
How much does it cost to start a solar panel installation business?
You will need between $45,000 and $140,000 to start a solar panel installation company. Startups in this sector spend around $92,500 on average to get things up and running. Most of this money goes toward buying equipment, a business truck, insurance, and marketing.
Licenses and permits
$500 - $1,000
$300 - $1,000
Marketing and Advertising
$1,000 - $3,000
$500 - $1,000
$300 - $500
$2,000 - $3,000
$30,000 - $100,000
$10,000 - $30,000
$400 - $500
$45,000 - $140,000
How much can you earn from a solar panel installation business?
Residential solar panel installation projects average at $16,800, including the cost of the solar panels and installation. The average profit margin for a solar business is about 10%.
In your first year or two, working part-time you could do two installations per month for $17,000 per installation and make about $400,000 in annual revenue. This would give you about $40,000 in profit, assuming that 10% margin. As your business grows you might make five $25,000 installations each month, which would give you annual revenue of $1.5 million and a tidy profit of $150,000.
What barriers to entry are there?
Barriers to entry for a solar panel installation company are relatively moderate. Significant challenges for new entrants include:
High initial investment required: Startup investment for a solar company is relatively high since most of the money goes toward buying the initial solar panel inventory.
Lack of product differentiation: Solar panel installation services are quite standard, leaving little room for creativity and innovation. The ripple effect is that it is challenging to stand out from your competition.
No switching costs: The industry lacks switching costs, making it easy for customers to switch from one company to another.
Learning and experience: You must know how to install solar panels to thrive in this industry. You also need a few months of hands-on experience to get started. These two factors could determine how soon you can win a client as a new entrant.
Related Business Ideas
If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
Now that you know what’s involved in starting a solar panel business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.
Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.
Why? Identify an opportunity
Research solar panel businesses in your area to examine their products and services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a solar panel firm that does rapid installation.
You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as selling excess energy back to the grid.
This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.
Operating a solar panel installation business in the top five states mentioned above could be profitable thanks to the high demand.
What? Determine your products or services
In a business world where your competitor often claims to be #1, it is crucial to differentiate and build your own identity. There are three models you can adopt to help the solar panel business stand out as explained below:
Model 1: Offer specialized installation services
Under this model, you will not stock solar panels. However, you will provide specialized solar installation services in partnership with companies that stock and sell solar panels.
Offering specialized installation services is the most cost-effective way to start. Further, this model enables you to gain the installation experience required to help you find your footing.
Model 2: Focus on product sales
Under this model, you will stock and sell solar panels. You will subcontract installation services in collaboration with companies that stock and sell solar panels.
Focusing on product sales is ideal if you want to simplify operations by outsourcing fieldwork from the get-go. That way, you can concentrate on the sales side of your business. Plus, you can develop a full-time team once your startup begins to generate substantial revenue.
Model 3: All-inclusive
Under this model, you will stock and sell solar panels. You’ll also offer installation services through in-house solar photovoltaic installers.
The all-inclusive model will require a significant amount of investment to enable you to purchase inventory and employ a team of reliable fieldworkers. You can also expect to incur high operating expenses, so go for this model only if you have considerable capital.
Apart from selling and installing solar panels, you can also offer auxiliary services such as consultation, repair, and maintenance. While such services may not generate much revenue, they could ensure a stream of steady customers and help build brand loyalty.
How much should you charge for solar panel installation?
The low and high-end prices of solar panels range from $5,000 to $40,000. These figures represent the cost of panels and don’t include labor and the cost of equipment such as the inverter.
An inverter can account for up to 10% of the cost of the solar panel. As a result, you can expect to generate $1,200 by selling the inverter for an average solar panel installation project.
The labor cost of installing a solar panel system can range from 20 to 40% of the system cost depending on the project and size of your solar system. You can expect to incur labor costs of about $3,600 for a $12,000 solar panel. Overall, a solar installation project generates an average of $16,800 in revenue.
Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.
Who? Identify your target market
To build a solid foundation for your solar panel installation startup, you must identify your ideal customer to enable you to customize your marketing appropriately. There’s a growing demand for solar panels in every consumer segment. Your target market should include:
Retailers – Target is a perfect example. The giant retailer has installed 500 solar panels systems on their store’s rooftop and plans to go 100% solar by 2030.
Nonprofit organizations and hospitals – A good example is Massachusetts General Hospital Boston. The hospital installed a 476kW solar energy system, enabling the institution to save $95,000 annually.
Where? Choose your business premises
The type of commercial space you need primarily depends on your startup strategy.
For instance, you can run your business from home if you don’t want to stock solar panels. Your business can also be home-based if you’re offering specialized installation services. But you will need to rent a warehouse and a physical storefront if you intend to sell solar panels and offer installation services.
You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices. When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:
Central location accessible via public transport
Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
Step 3: Brainstorm a Business Name
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:
Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better
Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
Including keywords, such as “solar panels” or “solar installation”, boosts SEO
Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “SolarTech Installations” over “Commercial Solar Panel Installations”
Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.
Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that set your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.
Step 4: Create a Business Plan
Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:
Executive Summary: Present a concise overview of your solar panel business, highlighting its focus on providing sustainable energy solutions through solar panel sales and installation services.
Business Overview: Describe the core business of selling and installing solar panels for residential, commercial, and industrial clients.
Product and Services: Detail the types of solar panels offered, along with additional services like site assessments, installation, and maintenance.
Market Analysis: Evaluate the demand for solar energy solutions, identifying key customer segments and regional solar incentives or regulations.
Competitive Analysis: Compare your business with other solar providers, focusing on your competitive advantages such as advanced technology, pricing, or customer service.
Sales and Marketing: Outline your strategy for attracting customers, which might include digital marketing, partnerships with builders, or attending trade shows.
Management Team: Highlight the expertise of your team, especially in areas like renewable energy technology, project management, and sales.
Operations Plan: Describe the process from customer acquisition to solar panel installation and after-sales service.
Financial Plan: Provide an overview of startup costs, pricing strategy, projected sales, and long-term financial viability.
Appendix: Include supporting documents such as product specifications, partnership agreements, or detailed market research to reinforce your business plan.
If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.
Step 5: Register Your Business
Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.
Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!
Choose where to register your company
Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to solar panels.
If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.
Choose your business structure
Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your solar panel business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.
Here are the main options:
Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.
The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.
Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.
It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.
Step 7: Fund Your Business
Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:
Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
Angel investors: Reach out to your entire network in search of people interested in investing in early-stage startups in exchange for a stake. Established angel investors are always looking for good opportunities.
Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.
Bank and SBA loans are probably the best options, other than friends and family, for funding a solar panel business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.
You may also need additional permits by your state to enable your startup to operate legally, including:
General business permit
Basic business license
Solar/general contractor license
Residential/home improvement contractor license
You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more.
Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your solar panel business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.
Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.
Step 10: Get Business Insurance
Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.
Here are some types of insurance to consider:
General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.
Essential software and tools
Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.
Field service management software, such as ServiceTitan, Jobber, or Field Nation, will enable you to manage your field service crew and oversee client management, scheduling, invoicing, task allocations, payroll, and re-organizing.
If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.
Develop your website
Creating a website for your solar panel installation business is essential for establishing a professional online presence and reaching potential clients. You can opt for user-friendly website builders which offer customizable templates ideal for startups on a tight budget. Alternatively, hiring a professional web designer ensures a unique, fully optimized site, though at a higher cost. Your website should be clean, mobile-responsive, and feature clear call-to-actions (CTAs) like “Get a Free Quote,” enhancing user experience and conversion potential.
Optimizing your website for search engines, particularly local SEO, is crucial. Incorporate relevant keywords and register with Google My Business to appear in local searches. Include quality content about solar energy, customer testimonials, and contact information to establish credibility and authority. A well-developed, SEO-optimized website can significantly boost your business’s visibility and attract more customers.
Here are some effective marketing strategies to consider for a solar panel installation business:
Educational Content and Workshops: Create informative content about the benefits of solar energy and the specifics of solar farms. This can include blog posts, videos, and social media content. Hosting workshops or webinars can also be a great way to engage potential clients and establish your business as a knowledgeable leader in the field.
Local Partnerships and Networking: Partner with local businesses, non-profits, and community organizations. Attend local events and join relevant business networks to build relationships and gain referrals. Collaborating with local construction companies, real estate developers, or environmental groups can be particularly beneficial.
Targeted Digital Marketing: Use digital marketing strategies such as SEO (Search Engine Optimization), PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising, and social media campaigns. Focus on keywords related to solar energy, renewable energy, and solar farms. Tailor your message to appeal to those interested in large-scale solar installations, such as businesses, agricultural enterprises, and government entities.
Customer Testimonials and Case Studies: Showcase successful solar farm projects with testimonials and detailed case studies. This provides social proof and helps potential customers visualize the benefits and process of working with your company.
Government Incentives and Policies: Stay informed about local, state, and federal incentives for solar energy and communicate these to potential clients. Being a resource for information on subsidies, tax credits, and grants can make solar farm investment more attractive to your clients.
Collaborations with Energy Companies: Partner with energy companies or utility providers. This can open opportunities for larger projects and establish your business as a go-to for utility-scale solar farm installations.
Referral Programs: Implement a referral program to encourage current clients to refer new customers. This can be especially effective in industries where word-of-mouth is a major factor in decision-making.
Sustainability Events and Trade Shows: Participate in trade shows, sustainability expos, and renewable energy conferences. This provides an opportunity to network, learn about industry trends, and directly reach potential clients interested in large-scale solar solutions.
Online Presence and Branding: Develop a strong online presence with a professional website and active social media accounts. Highlight your expertise in solar farm installation and renewable energy solutions. Use your branding to convey a message of sustainability and innovation.
Customized Solutions: Offer tailored solutions to meet specific client needs. This could include varying scales of solar farm installations, innovative technology options, and flexible financing plans.
Focus on USPs
Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your solar panels meet their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.
Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your solar panel business could be:
Save the world — install solar panels today!
Fast, affordable solar panel installation for your home
From purchase through maintenance, we cover all your solar panel dreams
You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a solar panel business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in renewable energy for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.
The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in solar panels. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. Online businesses might also consider affiliate marketing as a way to build relationships with potential partners and boost business.
Step 12: Build Your Team
You may not need to hire any employees if your business involves subcontracting fieldwork since your operations are simple. However, as your business grows, you’ll likely need to hire full-time employees for various job roles. Some potential employees for a solar installation business include:
Solar photovoltaic installer: Responsible for setting up and maintaining solar panels.
Sales Manager: Responsible for leading your sales team to reach targets.
Marketing Lead: SEO strategies, social media promotions
General Manager: Oversees operations, hiring and firing, and budgeting
At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.
Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.
As the price of solar and the cost to install it continue to fall, more Americans are becoming aware of the benefits of tapping clean renewable energy. That’s why the solar market is expanding rapidly across the US, and demand is exploding in many states, especially in California and Texas. Other states leading in solar energy installation are Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina.
Now that you’ve gained all of the necessary business knowledge, you should get out there and roll up your sleeves. With proper planning and hard work, you should be on your way to becoming a successful solar panel entrepreneur.
Solar Panel Business FAQs
How do solar installation companies make money?
The first way solar panel installers make money is through installing solar panels. You can also make money by stocking and selling solar panels while subcontracting installation to independent operators.
Is solar installation business profitable?
Yes, it is. If you only deal with installing panels for clients who pay the entire sum at a go, you can make a profit of up to $54,000 a year.
It is important to mention, though, that you’ll need a steady stream of contracts. If you’re handling high-ticket commercial installation projects you can make as much as $490,000 in profit per year.
What types of solar panel systems can I install and what factors should I consider when choosing them?
There are several types of solar panel systems you can install, including grid-tied systems, off-grid systems, and hybrid systems. When choosing a system, factors to consider include energy needs, available space for installation, budget, local regulations and incentives, and the solar panel efficiency and durability.
How can I differentiate my solar panel installation business from competitors in the market?
To differentiate your solar panel installation business from competitors, you can focus on several strategies. This includes offering exceptional customer service, providing personalized consultations and tailored solutions, using high-quality and reliable solar panels and equipment, staying updated with the latest industry trends and technologies, offering competitive pricing and financing options, and showcasing your expertise and track record through customer testimonials and case studies.
How can I attract customers and promote my solar panel installation services effectively?
To attract customers and effectively promote your solar panel installation services, you can employ various marketing tactics. This includes creating a professional website that highlights your services, benefits, and testimonials, utilizing search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to improve online visibility, leveraging social media platforms to engage with your target audience and share educational content, participating in local community events and trade shows, collaborating with other businesses or influencers in related industries, offering referral programs or discounts, and leveraging customer reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations.
How to Start a Solar Panel Installation Business
Decide if the Business Is Right for You
Hone Your Idea
Brainstorm a Business Name
Create a Business Plan
Register Your Business
Register for Taxes
Fund Your Business
Apply for Licenses/Permits
Open a Business Bank Account
Get Business Insurance
Prepare to Launch
Build Your Team
Start Making Money!
Solar Panel Business FAQs
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