Contractors Corner: Nautilus Solar uses 10th birthday to expand into new markets

A 10th anniversary of a restaurant or even a marriage is a notable event. But in the still-young solar industry, 10 years deserves a special celebration. Nautilus Solar Energy, headquartered in Summit, New Jersey, recently celebrated its decade milestone, and CEO Jim Rice said everyone at the company is very proud.

“I feel like in the solar world, we always kid around that that’s forever,” Rice said. “It means a lot to us as far as being involved with this incredible industry for that amount of time.”

A full-service provider, Nautilus Solar is involved with developing, constructing, operating and owning projects ranging in size from 1 to 10 MW within the commercial, industrial and municipal markets. Although the company has a strong workload in the Northeast, projects have spanned the country and into Canada.

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“We target individual markets where it’s attractive enough to build and own solar,” Rice said. “That range has definitely expanded recently. Costs continue to come down so solar is competitive in more markets.”

Nautilus can expand into additional markets because of its partner program, which was established to build relationships and produce a repeatable process for completing projects.

“We do not have our own installation teams—we always contract with other installers to do that,” Rice said. “We don’t try to compete with them. We are good doing projects and looking forward to owning them. We don’t shift around and try to get into their construction business. We’ll co-develop and co-construct with our partners.”

The relationship works both ways, Rice said. Many Nautilus projects come from partner installers that need help with third-party ownership or development.

“In a regional market, we’re dealing with the same partner over and over again. We have a transparent set of contracts to define our relationship,” he said. “We think we have the reputation for being a great partner and being able to get the projects done. We built those relationships over our 10 years.”

As a full-service provider, Nautilus has been involved with asset management since the beginning, making sure its owned projects are performing at their peak. Just recently, the company expanded its asset management branch to assist with projects Nautilus doesn’t directly own.

“We noticed over our 10 years, many times once solar assets are up and running, they’re undermanaged,” Rice said. “We are well set up to come in and provide them a stable platform for asset management.”

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The plan for the future is to take the company’s decade of full industry experience and expand even further.

“We have aggressive growth targets that fit with the growing industry,” Rice said. “We want to do more megawatts in more markets, taking the model that we have and keep applying it in additional markets.

“When we founded 10 years ago, we foresaw a reducing cost curve, more dollars coming into the markets. We always called it: Be green, but also earn green,” he continued. “The first 10 years have really been the setup for that. When we look into the future, we see this incredible activity where core customer sustainability goals are staying in place, and we’re continuing to reduce the cost of power for our customers. Being green and making green also applies to our customers.”