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Year in Review | Solar design tips, sales advice, and industry insights from the premier solar design software platform


The Aurora Blog’s Top 10 Articles of 2018

Posted by Gwen Brown on Dec 24, 2018 9:45:59 AM

From solar tariffs to new utility rates, 2018 has been filled with surprises for the solar industry. But it’s also been a year filled with progress towards a solar-powered future–as exemplified by the unprecedented state and local commitment to clean energy around the country, and by utility-scale renewables reaching prices that are at or below that of many fossil fuels. Through it all, our goal here at the Aurora Blog has remained the same: to produce helpful, informative articles, from policy updates to discussions of solar engineering concepts, to help you navigate the ins-and-outs of the solar industry.

With the end of the year around the corner, we took a look back at our most popular articles published this year. If you missed these updates when they were first published, now’s your chance to catch up on the articles that have been a hit with your solar industry peers.

1. The 2018 State Solar Policy Changes You Need to Know

Our most popular article published 2018 was our guide to the state policy changes affecting solar and renewable energy around the country. Originally published mid-year, we’ve been updating this guide with all the key policy changes around the country, both good and bad (including New York’s exciting new announcement just last week that is aiming for 100% carbon-fuel free electricity by 2040!). Quickly navigate to your state to see if there are any new developments you should be keeping tabs on.

2. Understanding PV System Losses, Part 1: Nameplate, Mismatch, and LID Losses

PV system losses–the many factors that can reduce the energy production of your solar installation–can be complex. Throughout the year, Aurora’s Research Engineer Andrew Gong has been sharing his insights and industry data to help you better understand the different loss types and how to accurately account for them in your solar production estimates.

While Part 1, exploring nameplate, mismatch, and LID losses, has been a hit, the whole series (which concluded with Part 4, published last week) has been popular with solar contractors around the country. You can check out the full series here.

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3. 5 Reasons Blockchain Is Game-Changing for Solar Energy

 Blockchain–the mechanism behind bitcoin–remains something of a mystery to many. But for those of us passionate about clean energy, it’s worth paying attention to for several reasons. Our popular article on blockchain explores what it is why it matters for clean energy.

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4. Does Solar Increase Home Value? The Latest Data for Solar Clients

 When you’re selling a residential solar installation, which will be part of a customer’s home for decades to come, one of the main things they may be concerned about is how it will affect their home’s value. We explored the literature on how solar installations affect home prices–and uncovered some exciting facts you’ll want to share with prospective customers.

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5. How Net Metering is Evolving: Three Changes You Need to Know

As solar energy becomes a greater proportion of the energy mix in markets around the country, utilities are experimenting with new rate structures with important implications for solar savings. We explored these changes to net metering policies and identified the major trends to be aware of and what they mean for solar customers.

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6. Key Solar Energy Terms: Irradiance, Insolation, TSRF and More

The amount of solar energy available at a location is an essential starting point for determining whether a solar installation makes sense and what design will work best. There are a number of different terms for quantifying solar energy and it’s important for solar professionals to well-versed in what they mean and how they differ. Our article on this topic provides a quick and handy primer, whether you’re a seasoned solar veteran or new to the industry.

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7. Turning Solar Support Into Solar Sales: 5 Tactics for Effective Communication

One of our favorite conference sessions at Solar Power International this year explored how we communicate about solar and highlighted communication lessons for increasing solar support. Although solar enjoys broad support from Americans, this doesn’t always translate into action. A panel of communication experts, from a former White House Communications to the former Chief Marketing Officer at Beats by Dr. Dre and Apple, shared their insights on how to get your message across effectively. We identified the key lessons from the session.

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 8. Lessons for Success from the 2018 Top Solar Contractors List

Each year, Solar Power World compiles a list of the Top Solar Contractors in the U.S., based on the kilowatt capacity of projects they installed, developed, or helped construct in the previous year. We reached out to these companies to get their insights for running a successful solar business.In response to our question, “What advice and tips would you give to solar companies to operate successfully?” we saw several themes emerge. If you’re considering what your company can do to maximize success in the solar industry in the coming year, check out the advice of some of the most prolific U.S. solar installation companies of 2018.

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9. SEIA President & CEO Abby Hopper on Solar Policy Priorities and More

From Washington, D.C. to state capitals around the country, if there’s a policy change that affects clean energy in the U.S., chances are the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is there advocating for the advancement of solar. We had the pleasure of speaking with SEIA President and CEO Abby Hopper to learn more about SEIA’s advocacy priorities, changes in solar markets around the country, opportunities for increasing diversity in the solar workforce and customer base, and more. Check out our interview for Hopper’s take on these important industry topics.

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10. The Green Bank Programs Making Solar Financing More Accessible, Part 1

As any solar contractor knows, solar installations remain out of reach for many interested customers due to the high upfront cost. But green banks, a new type of finance institution established by governments to accelerate the growth of clean energy markets, are helping to make solar financing more accessible. And this trend is still going strong with Colorado’s establishment of a green bank just last week (something we’ll explore in a future article).

In this two-part series, we spoke with staff at green banks across the U.S. to determine what programs solar contractors in different states should be aware of and offer insight into the diversity of approaches green banks are applying to help solar markets grow. For more background on green banks and how they work, we also put together a primer explaining them.

We hope that the Aurora blog has been a valuable resource for you in 2018 to advance your solar knowledge and your work in the industry. Do you have other favorite articles that didn’t make this list? We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below!


 P.S. As Aurora’s Content Marketer, I’m always thinking about how our blog can better serve the needs of solar contractors. I’d love to hear from you about what solar topics you’re most interested in reading about in 2019, or other thoughts on how we can continue to improve! Feel free to email me at gbrown(at)aurorasolar.com. 

Topics: Year in Review

The Aurora Blog’s Top 10 Articles of 2017

Posted by Gwen Brown on Dec 20, 2017 6:51:47 AM

As 2017 draws to a close, here at the Aurora Blog we’re taking a look back at our work and what has resonated most with readers. We’ve achieved a lot since we launched the blog a little over a year ago. We’ve published 80 articles—spanning topics from solar engineering to interviews with industry leaders, from analyses of utility rate changes to sales and finance tips. Along the way, our intent has remained the same: to produce high-quality, educational content that makes a positive difference in the work of our solar industry readers.

While we’re proud of all of our articles, some really stood out above the rest. In case you missed them, here are some of our most read and shared articles from the last year organized by topic.

Solar Design & Engineering

Designing a solar installation can be a complex process. Since a huge focus of our work at Aurora is making it easier for solar professionals to design optimal solar installations quickly and easily, we thought it was fitting that two of our top-performing articles focus on the intricacies of solar design.

Shade Losses in PV Systems and Techniques to Mitigate Them 

Shade Losses in PV Systems and Techniques to Mitigate Them

Shade can reduce a solar panel’s power output is reduced by much more than you might expect: shading just one out of 36 cells in a small solar module can reduce power output by over 75%! In addition to explaining this phenomenon, we explore some of the ways that solar designers can mitigate the impacts of shade and maximize the output of a system.

Choosing the Right Size Inverter for Your Solar Design: A Primer on Inverter Clipping 

Choosing the Right Size Inverter for Your Solar Design: A Primer on Inverter Clipping

There are many considerations that go into designing a cost-effective solar project that meets the energy production needs of a client, but one of the key factors to consider is the inverter you choose and how much power it can output. In this reader favorite we delve into technical issues that solar designers should be aware of when selecting an inverter.

In some cases, it may make sense to oversize a solar array compared its inverter (meaning the inverter’s power rating is slightly less than what the solar array could produce at its maximum power output). This is because throughout most of the day the array will not be producing at peak power, and will be operating below the inverter’s power rating. During those hours, having additional panels means that you can capture more energy.

However, when the array does reach its maximum power output, the amount of energy that can be captured will be limited by the inverter’s capabilities (an effect known as inverter clipping or power limiting). We explain how to assess the pros and cons of solar designs that may experience inverter clipping, and how to account for these impacts when estimating the energy production of a design.

Solar Policy Insights and Updates on Utility Rate Changes

Policies and utility rates have huge impacts on the solar market and the economics of going solar. With changes seemingly happening all the time, it can be hard to keep up and see the big picture. Another of our major focuses here at the Aurora blog is keeping tabs on some of the major utility changes for solar customers and detailing what the impacts will be for solar customers, as well as taking a broader look at the policy landscape to understand emerging trends. Two of our top articles from 2017 offer perspectives on solar policies.

Getting to 100% Renewable Energy: An Interview with David Hochschild of the California Energy Commission 

Getting to 100% Renewable Energy: An Interview with David Hochschild of the California Energy Commission

We had the pleasure of interviewing California Energy Commissioner David Hochschild to learn more about how California policies are evolving as the state pursues its ambitious climate change targets, and to get his take on clean energy policy more broadly. Check out this article (featured in Greentech Media!) for insights on emerging solar markets, how our electricity markets will need to evolve as more solar is installed, and how California is working towards its mandate of sourcing 50% of the state’s electricity from renewable energy by 2030!

The Ultimate Guide to NEM 2.0: Non-Bypassable Charges Explained 

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NEM 2.0, California’s updated net metering approach, went into effect this year and changed the way that solar customers are compensated. Even if you’re not based in California, getting up to speed on what’s changing under NEM 2.0 may be a good idea. With the highest levels of solar capacity in the U.S., California is leading the way on solar policies that other states may explore as they add more solar.

Resources for Running a Successful Solar Business

With the solar industry getting increasingly competitive, solar contractors need to be savvy to position themselves for success. At the Aurora Blog, we’ve been on the lookout for insights to help solar professionals manage their businesses more effectively. From in-depth research to understand what makes a solar sales proposal effective to interviews with experts, these articles offer practical tips for improving your solar operations.

What Makes a Solar Sales Proposal Successful? 5 Tips for Proposals That Close 

What Makes a Solar Sales Proposal Successful? 5 Tips for Proposals That Close

Based on a months-long research project, this article tackles an important subject for solar contractors: sales proposals and what makes them effective. After all, when the design is finished and your sales conversations are over, your proposal is the customer is left with as they sit down to choose between you and your competitors. What does your proposal say about you—and what can you do to make it as strong as possible? Check out this article to find out!

Solar Sales Part 1: The Importance of Branding with Katherine Glass 

Solar Sales Part 1: The Importance of Branding with Katherine Glass

Brand is a word that every business owner has heard, but few have a clear understanding of how to build it effectively. Katherine Glass is an expert in helping companies create their marketing and branding strategy, having advised leading name brands from Delta to Starbucks. She interviewed solar customers and contractors to identify industry branding and marketing best practices, and here she shares her insights on what solar companies can do to build a strong brand that will help their business grow.

These Practices Will Make Your Solar Business More Successful: Pro Tips from Pamela Cargill 

These Practices Will Make Your Solar Business More Successful: Pro Tips from Pamela Cargill

Pamela Cargill is Principal of Chaolysti, a consulting firm that helps residential solar contractors succeed and reach profitability. She has an impressive track record of scaling solar installation companies, and has worked on all aspects of residential solar operations. Cargill started her solar career as the second employee of a small solar installation company and played a key role scaling it into a $1M 8-person operation and, after two acquisitions, into a $60M regional installation leader. We were excited to have the chance to interview Cargill and share her advice on operational changes you can implement today to make your solar business more successful.

Solving Clients' Needs: Advice for Solar Companies from a Nobel Prize-winning Economist 

Solving Clients' Needs: Advice for Solar Companies from a Nobel Prize-winning Economist

Nobel Prize-winning economist and long-time Aurora adviser, Dr. Myron Scholes shares his insights on how solar companies can position themselves for success in the current market. Dr. Scholes discusses how technology can help companies understand what their clients want and how they can build trust with customers.

Technologies Changing Solar Design

Here at Aurora, we’re always looking for the latest technology to make remote solar design faster, easier, and more accurate. These articles highlight some of the technology developments that can help make solar contractors’ work more efficient. 

How LIDAR is Transforming Remote Solar Design 

How LIDAR is Transforming Remote Solar Design

Although not a new technology, the increasing accessibility of LIDAR data is a gamechanger for remote solar design. Since the 1960s when LIDAR was first used by NASA scientists for research purposes, it has captured the imagination of professionals that want to remotely make precise measurements or three-dimensional models of an area. We explain how LIDAR data is collected and how it is being integrated into the solar design process.

How Computer Vision Is Revolutionizing Solar Design 

How Computer Vision Is Revolutionizing Solar Design

Computer vision is an emerging field that uses computers to interpret visual images. In some of its current applications for solar design, computer vision can be used to take accurate measurements of different parts of a solar project site, like measuring the height of a tree, the pitch of a roof, or the width of a dormer. It can also be used to automatically detect similar structures on a roof, such as automatically detecting all the vents and skylights on a commercial roof. These applications can enhance design accuracy and significantly speed up the time needed to create a design. We sat down with our expert team of computer vision engineers to understand how computer vision works and how solar designers can integrate it into their work.


We’ve come a long way since we launched the Aurora blog in September of 2016, but our ambition remains the same: to generate high-quality, educational content that enriches the solar community. We’re thankful to to all of our readers and hope our articles have made a positive difference in your work!

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Please note: We’ll be taking a brief break for the holidays, but look forward to publishing many more articles in 2018.

Do you have feedback you’d like to share or topics you’d like to see us address in future articles? Comment below, connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, or email gbrown (at) aurorasolar.com. Thank you!

Topics: Year in Review

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