“When we started our company, we called ourselves RER Energy Group; we did not call ourselves RER Solar. We did that because we were expecting to be more involved in other types of renewable energy systems,” said Jim Kurtz, president of RER Energy Group, a solar contractor based in Reading, Pennsylvania. He said the company has kept the original non-solar name even though its completely immersed into PV, working throughout the U.S. and recently expanding internationally.
“The reality is, the technical simplicity of solar and the reliability of it, just makes it such a driving force, a reliable source and a valuable source of energy,” Kurtz said. “We are quite bullish on solar. We see continued rapid growth for many, many years.”
RER Energy Group spun out of electrical contracting firm Reading Electric Motor Services in 2009, when the company saw growth opportunities in a new industry. Currently working on systems throughout the Northeast and a community solar project in Iowa, RER mostly installs larger commercial, industrial and municipal projects. This past year, RER opened an office in Mexico to begin operations in Latin America.
While RER is lucky to have projects across the continent, Kurtz said it’s sometimes difficult to deal with so many different players.
“There really is no one solar industry per se,” he said. “There are 50 states; there are 50 different types of plans from that perspective. Then you have the different utilities within each state. Then you have all the permitting organizations within each different area. Complexity is something that’s unfortunate. There needs to be simplification and standardization on the permitting side for sure. We try to work with organizations for communication there.”
Kurtz said RER also really focuses on educating the public on the benefits of solar.
“We’re all in the solar industry, which really means we’re in the education industry,” he said. “Solar is unfortunately a bit too complicated. We find it very helpful to work with local organizations—trade organizations in the solar industry, engineering associations, electrical contractor associations, school associations, farmer associations. It’s about getting the word out.
“It’s a team sport, the solar industry. You need a lot of people involved to get any one project done. We incorporate as many people as possible in the local area for education and to get involved in the project going forward.”
RER works with a separate financing company, Sunvestment Energy Group, to further bring more helpful information to solar customers.
“We saw that the third-party financing space offers very attractive returns. We worked with the Department of Energy and got a SunShot grant to create a platform that allows local investors, people involved with the site host, to get involved in the financing to keep more of the benefits on a local basis,” Kurtz said. “We try very hard to understand the client and tailor a solution that is best for them.”
Kurtz said the best part about the solar industry is getting all the puzzle pieces to fit together and overcoming various challenges.
“That’s what makes this rewarding,” he said. “There are policy battles, there are all kinds of challenges. But when you have customers who are pleased and they give you referrals, you’re helping people. It makes you feel that you’re really producing something for the greater benefit for society.”