How to Start a CleanTech Business Posted on Mar 28, 2022

We created a checklist of tasks and considerations to help people start a solar company or other cleantech business. This checklist should be modified depending on the exact business type and plan, as appropriate. 

CleanTech Business Start-Up Checklist

1. Decide what types of products and services you want to sell

- Cleantech products include a wide range of product types, such as products that harness renewable materials or energy sources, dramatically reduce the use of natural resources, or cut or eliminate emissions and wastes, such as recycling, renewable energy (wind, solar, biomass, hydropower, tidal, geothermal, biofuels, etc), information technology, green transportation, electric motors, green chemistry, greywater, and energy efficiency appliances. 

-Cleantech services include a wide range of service types, such as installation, repair, maintenance, operations, sales, engineering, financial advisory, marketing, policy and consulting.

2. Develop a business plan.  Include: initial market research, a business philosophy, analyze competitors, short and long term goals with steps to get there, decide upon financing and ownership structure.

3. Determine availability for chosen company name. Perform internet search, United States Patent and Trademark Office database review, review of state agency business listings.

4. If planning to conduct business under a different name, complete and file a Fictitious Business Name Application with registrar/recorder's office of the county in which the entity has its principal place of business.

5. Determine domain availability for chosen name and purchase domain through a domain provider.

6. Determine whether to organize in your own state or in another jurisdiction (consider tax, legal, regulatory and other factors).

7. Determine what entity structure to form such as a limited liability company, C corp , S corp (C corp with S election), LLP, PC or sole proprietor, and ensure company name complies with state law.

8. If desired to reserve company name pending formation, complete and file a name reservation request with state (optional).

9. Draft and sign entity formation documents depending on entity type, such as the Articles of Incorporation or Organization, Bylaws or LLC Operating Agreement.

10. File Articles of Incorporation or Organization with the state (if applicable).

11. Attend to entity organizational matters, such as the first organizational meeting adopting resolution and minutes.

12. Obtain Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS website.

13. Set up a business bank account, which may require the corporate formation documents and an EIN.

14. Create a corporate filing/record system for business accounting. The importance of keeping accurate and complete books for your business is a top priority for ensuring legal protection of your business. We think Quickbooks online is the easiest way to set up and manage a corporate accounting system, including use of their payroll services.

15. Apply for any necessary licenses and permits. Check local, state and federal licensing requirements.
- Nationwide resource: Small Business Administration
- Registrations for doing business out of state (if applicable).
- Seller's permit and use tax account set up (if necessary).
- Business licenses – typically local – check city or county requirements.
- Obtain any specialty licensing requirements depending on business service/product, such as, the following:
--> For installers – a contractor license with your state's contractor license board.
--> For financiers and financial advisors- a Nationwide Multistate Licensing System, California Financing Law or Real Estate Broker license is potentially required.
--> For contractor's salespersons – a contractor state license board sales registrations is likely required (depending on state).
--> For engineers - in addition to state licensing requirements, consider voluntary certifications, such as North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certifications for national standards for PV professionals, which includes: PV Installation Professional (PVIP), PV Design Specialist (PVDS), PV Technical Sales Professional (PVTS), PV Installer Specialist (PVIS), PV Commissioning & Maintenance Specialist (PVCMS), and PV System Inspector (PVSI).



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16. File for trademark or service mark protection, as applicable.

17. Attend to tax registrations, including any federal entity classification election and federal and state taxation issues.

18. Register with the state Employment Development Department.

19. Put in place all business contracts and customers disclosures to establish contractual protections and meet required legal requirements for selling to customers, ensure agreed upon terms with partners are established, and set forth appropriate employment policies. These include, but are not limited to, as follows:
- Commercial Solar Installation Agreements, Residential Solar Installation Agreements, Sales Commission policies, Non-Disclosure Agreements, Independent Contractor Agreements, O&M Agreements, Time & Material Agreements, MOU for supply, and more.
- All consumer disclosure forms required by state and federal law for your particular product and/or service. 

20. Purchase commercial/professional liability insurance.

21. Find and meet with a good C.P.A. for planning purposes well in advance of tax time.

22. Join and become active in trade associations, such as CALSSA, SEIA, American Solar Energy Society and the US Green Building Council

23. Develop a sales team and business tools that explain utility requirements, regulations, rebates, incentives and other metrics specific to renewables. Set up a sales commission structure that is appropriate for renewables - e.g., see our Solar Sales Commission policy.

24. Establish internal or external renewable energy engineering design capability.

25. Set up a business website. If you are a contractor, remember that a website is advertising and state law likely requires that your contractor license is placed on every page, just as it must be on all business cards and trucks.

26. For resources for Women in Business checkout Women in Cleantech & Sustainability.

27. Establish a process for on-going compliance issues, including but not limited to, maintaining corporate minutes, filing Statement of Information, federal and state income tax returns.