The Solar Power World Top Solar Contractors list and the industry have grown at a similar clip. Solar Power World first published the list in 2012 with 100 companies. It grew to 250 companies in 2013, 400 companies in 2014 and into its current form of 500 companies in 2015. The industry as a whole has seen similar upward momentum, with more companies, more installations and more employees every year.
The Top Solar Contractors list was established as a way to recognize the hard work of the growing number of U.S. and Canadian solar contractors. But a special cohort of 38 contractors have appeared on the list every year since the beginning. We asked three of these contractors to reflect on the growth in the industry and their companies over the past five years, as well as the value they find in the Top Solar Contractors list.
Monolith Solar Associates
Monolith Solar Associates was founded in 2009 in Albany, New York. In 2015 the company completed 4,136 kW of installations across the state of New York.
During the past five years, Monolith Solar has witnessed many changes in the solar industry, especially in its home state. The size of individual projects is one of the most noticeable changes, said Tim Carr, head of commercial sales, with New York now incentivizing systems up to 2,000 kW, up from a maximum of 50 kW in 2011. Changes have also been made in market policies that allow off-site systems and support remote net-metering. Last year, New York announced its Community Shared Renewables program, which aims to modify the business models of the state’s utilities to increase the growth and generation of distributed energy resources. Monolith Solar plans to be a market leader in this program, Carr said.
Monolith Solar has grown from a two-person garage operation in 2008 to now employing 72 people. The company has experienced tremendous installation and sales growth during the past five years, especially in the commercial market. Since 2014, the company has capitalized on the opportunity of remote net-metering. It currently has more than 70 MW of contracts under development for commercial and industrial clientele, including the largest PPA portfolio in New York to date.
The employees of Monolith Solar are proud to be part of such an important and impactful industry.
“It’s a win-win-win—we do the right thing for our planet, we create the ability to make money as a business and our customers are given the opportunity to save money,” Carr said. He believes that his company stands out from others in the industry because of the experience and integrity the team brings to their customer interactions.
Monolith Solar takes pride in the impact it has had on the Albany community. For example, the company converted a rundown property into a state-of-the-art office space, including a solar carport parking area with electric vehicle charging that is available for free use by the public.
Monolith Solar always values its rank on the Top Contractors list because it is recognition of the contractor’s efforts to change the world and the way that people consume energy, Carr said.
Creative Energies Solar
Creative Energies Solar has offices in three mountain towns in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming and defines itself based on its passion for the environment and the solar industry. The company was founded in 2000 and has since grown into a 20-employee company. In 2015, it installed 1,849 kW among 175 projects across the three states where it does business.
During the past five years, the company has watched the solar industry become much more streamlined. Increased efficiency in the workplace and improved solar equipment have allowed it to decrease installation times and reduce the total system cost for its customers.
As a result, the contractor is able to increase the amount of installations it performs while maintaining a low price.
“Five years ago we planned our finances and schedule around purchasing a pallet of solar, and now we plan around truckloads,” said Creighton Elinski, marketing manager at Creative Energies. “Our objective has always been to put more solar out there in the world, and now we can really do it at a larger scale.”
Creative Energies enjoys working in a rapidly changing field where its customers are thoughtful and willing to learn new things. Its employees are growth-oriented and constantly learning about new technologies and techniques. They pride themselves on their approach to their work, Elinski said.
“We see lots of solar providers who are driven by the chance to grow and hit ambitious sales objectives,” Elinski said. “We strive to make sure each of our customers has an excellent understanding of what solar will or will not do for them.”
The company’s placement on the Top Contractors list serves as a reminder that it’s part of a larger movement.
“The list helps point out that though we may be operating on our own in the rural West, there is an army of people around the country changing the world from up on roofs,” Elinski said.
Energy Independent Solutions (EIS Solar)
Energy Independent Solutions is a company of 17 employees founded in 2008 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 2015, the company installed 63 projects across Indiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia that totaled 771 kW.
Joe Morinville, owner of EIS, said that besides price drops, the biggest change the company has witnessed in the solar industry in the past five years is that consumers are now more educated than they used to be. While customers used to ask novice questions about what a solar panel is and how it works, they now ask questions about cost, performance and technology right off the bat.
EIS has grown substantially since its first appearance on the Top Contractors list five years ago. Not only has the company doubled its number of employees and tripled its workspace, but it has also taken on larger and more interesting projects, like parking covers and solar-shade awnings. It is also using more architecturally interesting panels, like glass-on-glass and bifacial. Looking forward to the next five years, Morinville says he sees evolving storage solutions as a huge opportunity for development.
EIS values its placement on the Top Contractors list because, although it is part of a small market around Pennsylvania, the company enjoys the confirmation that it can hold its own against vibrant markets like California and New Jersey.
“It is a great measure of success to be nationally ranked,” Morinville said. “We must be doing something right, and the Top Contractors List helps us to take measure of this.”