When Brandon Cheshire founded SunHarvest Solar & Electrical in 2009, he was ready to use his years of electrical experience to bring renewable energy to homeowners in the Phoenix area. He didn’t expect to spend most of his time fighting for acceptance.
“I haven’t really wanted to get involved in public policy, regulation or politics, but it seems like I’m wearing a second hat nowadays that’s more of a lobbyist or a political insider,” Cheshire said. “I meet with senators and regulators and try to convince them that solar is an economically viable solution and it should be embraced instead of resisted.”
The regulatory atmosphere of SunHarvest’s service area in Arizona is tough right now.
“We have the two largest utility companies in the state that have tried to pass a solar fee of $50 to $100 a month for their solar customers,” Cheshire said. “The regulated monopoly was able to get a 70-cents-per-kilowatt fee initiated for solar customers, and that is per month. The second utility is currently accepting public comments for a similar revenue tax on the sun.”
Even with the setbacks, SunHarvest—which works on mostly residential systems—is on track to install close to 200 kW each week in 2015.
“Our local governments are doing great things to invest in solar,” Cheshire said. “When you get down to the local levels like the city councils and mayors, they’re doing a handful of things and have passed solar generation standards by 2020 or 2025 that are very progressive. The fight is always going to be with the state and the federal government and the regulatory interests of a few, but decisions are paving the way for states to adopt more aggressive implementation standards.”
Cheshire believes more consumers will catch on to the benefits of solar in the near future.
“I believe solar will be as ubiquitous as cell phones in five years,” Cheshire said. “If I had to make a prediction, I believe this will be out of environmental and scientific necessity. I’d like to quote Jimi Hendrix here, and he said that we’ll have peace when the power of love overcomes the love of power. I believe that the will and urgency to adopt solar will be evident and prevalent in five years.”
SunHarvest Solar’s unique blend of services allows customers to choose the company’s level of involvement.
“We have somewhat of an ala carte brand of services,” Cheshire said. “We’ll work with the customer who is the do-it-yourself and the survivalist, and they want to do everything [and] just need a licensed contractor to certify and inspect. We’ll offer the full spectrum where the homeowner just needs to sign and give us access to their roof and everything is done for them. [We] will really cater to both those sides and anything in between.”
“I love creating positive change and powering citizens and consumers alike and the satisfaction received from an honest day’s work,” he said. “Turning on a little power plant that you just spent the day building is incredibly rewarding on so many levels. Plus, we’re doing our part and leading by example and hopefully providing a legacy for our progeny.” SPW