A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentuckians urged to do homework, watch out for solar scams as companies use aggressive marketing

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

Out-of-state solar companies are using aggressive marketing tactics in Kentucky to lure potential customers, and experts say anyone interested in having solar panels installed should do their homework.

People should never end up with solar panels installed in the shade, for instance, or with overpriced systems lacking basic safety requirements or proper permits.

Rachel Norton, energy specialist for the Mountain Association, said one major red flag is an installer who promises a government check or offers to lower their price based on a federal tax credit.

(NKyTribune file)

“And you’re never going to receive that federal tax credit as a check. That operates differently. You shouldn’t be expecting to receive a check in the mail,” Norton explained. “Anything that seems strange around how you may receive money in the form of your tax credit, that’s shady.”

She pointed to the Kentucky Solar Energy Society’s website as a good resource. The Mountain Association also provides business owners, local governments, and nonprofits with third-party energy audits, which can help determine which energy changes could save the most money.

Ben Tatum, owner of Appalachian Energy Works, a solar installer and energy efficiency company, encouraged people to avoid any business providing an estimate without visiting the property in person.

“I would want to make sure that someone actually visits me onsite before I ever sign a contract or do a deal,” Tatum advised. “Because there’s so many more things they can figure out onsite.”

Norton added public education about solar power is critical to ensuring panels are installed at a fair price by reputable installers, and the buyer receives realistic savings estimates.

“It really hinders a lot of the things that we’ve worked on,” Norton pointed out. “Like creating this community and ecosystem around how powerful energy efficacy and clean energy and renewables can be, for Kentucky and specifically, the Appalachian region.”

People also can report questionable bids or suspicious activity to law enforcement and the Better Business Bureau.

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