After four presentations what I have surmised is the following:
1. Avoid micro-inverters. There is a theoretical advantage but you introduce 15-25 potential points of failure instead of 1. They do fail and you don't want people up on your roof, breaking tiles, as they replace the failed micro-inverters. A failed central inverter just means a couple of days with no power generation.
2. Optimizers are okay, but not really essential unless you have shading issues.
3. Avoid polycrystalline panels. Use only monocrystalline panels.
4. Buy direct, from a panel manufacturer that is likely to remain in business, not from an installer that buys panels from that manufacturer. Check the financial health of the panel manufacturer since some are barely hanging on and are likely to fail when the federal tax credit starts going away in 2016.
5. Minimize the number of panels buy using the more efficient panels even if the initial cost is slightly higher.
6. Buy, don't lease, and no "prepaid power agreements."
7. Make sure that the electrical panel upgrade cost, if necessary is included.
8. If you're going to go solar, do it in 2015, the last year of the 30% federal tax credit.
9. Check LinkedIn for friends that may work at a solar company to see if there is any "friend's and family" discount (the quote I got from one panel maker came down by $3000 because a friend works there and they have a friends and family program).
10. Check that it makes sense at all based on your KWH rate. In my city we're paying about 33¢/KWH and it will take about 9 years to break even. The next city over, with a municipally owned power company charges about 11¢/KWH and solar makes no sense there.
11. Consider whether or not a time-of-use rate plan will work for you or not. For my utility, they credit you a lot more for generated power if you are on a time-of-use rate plan, so even if you have to use some peak time power, i.e. for a pool pump or air conditioner, it may be beneficial to be on the time-of use plan and pay a higher top rate than on a non-time-of-use rate plan.
Any other things I've missed? Advice? Should I run away screaming?