Some may find it surprising that a solar developer based in Indiana is making such an impact on the promotion of solar energy. The Midwest isn’t the quintessential region for solar installations, but the times are a-changin’. As more utilities retire aging coal plants, South Bend’s Inovateus Solar is helping to guide the energy transition to solar.
“It’s exciting to see that what we do—the 40 people here at Inovateus—can have such a big impact,” said president TJ Kanczuzewski. “It’s fun to be part of this energy revolution that’s happening. I couldn’t think of a better profession to have.”
Inovateus Solar started in 2008 as a spinoff of Midwest construction company Inovateus Development. Initially functioning as a distributor, Inovateus Solar quickly shifted to an engineer, then a project manager, then an EPC and finally landed as a developer.
“As we really started to get our foot in the door with some larger companies and utilities, we quickly realized that we had to grow our efforts into being able to provide our customers with other resources,” Kanczuzewski said. “We’ve really come full circle since we kicked off our efforts. It’s been interesting and exciting at the same time to see the Midwestern market really pick up and see several utilities launch solar programs.”
The commercial market is a sweet spot for Inovateus, but the developer is involved with some larger utility-scale projects as well. Currently working on a 60-MW project for DTE Energy in Michigan, Inovateus has been at the forefront of solar’s arrival in the Midwest and expects many more projects going forward.
The major goal for Inovateus Solar, which has been on the Solar Power World Top Solar Contractors list all five years, is to be a Top 5 U.S. solar company.
“We think if we can be the top solar developer in the Midwest, within about 10 years we’ll definitely be in the Top 5 of the country because the Midwest market is really going to become a bigger one,” Kanczuzewski said. Already, Inovateus Solar ranks at No. 11 on the overall 2016 SPW Top Solar Developers list and is the highest-ranking Midwest developer. The company appears to be on track to its goal.
One way to expand its efforts is to make the company a national name. In a unique partnership, Inovateus Solar has teamed up with IndyCar driver Stefan Wilson to promote solar energy to new audiences.
“I was scratching my head. How does someone in racing, an industry that burns fossil fuels, help promote solar?” Kanczuzewski initially thought. “Stefan quickly put things into perspective. Our purpose as a company is to build a brilliant tomorrow. Stefan’s mission is one to promote sustainability through racing. He really has the foundation in place to talk to the people and take it to the next level.”
When Wilson drove in the 100th Indianapolis 500 this year, he was racing with Inovateus Solar sponsoring the car.
“We want to help sponsor his racing efforts, but at the same time, he is helping to promote solar energy with the audience he has,” Kanczuzewski said. “One thing we’ve always tried to do at Inovateus is connect ourselves with people who are involved in different industries. With solar, we kind of all preach the same thing to each other within the same industry. That’s great, but we have to get outside of that bubble. For solar to be a mainstream product, you need mainstream folks sharing that story.”
As Inovateus Solar takes steps to spread the gospel of solar energy throughout the Midwest and to bigger national crowds, Kanczuzewski said everyone’s passion for the industry makes the job easy.
“I enjoy the opportunity to make not just a positive impact on the world, but a profound impact,” Kanczuzewski said. “Our core values at Inovateus are passion, engagement, ambition, creativity and esprit de corps—or the acronym PEACE. The solar energy industry gives us the opportunity to really do all of those things 110%.”
Hear even more of SPW’s discussion with TJ Kanczuzewski on our monthly Contractors Corner podcast (embedded at the top of this page and found within any podcast app). Hear more stories about Inovateus Solar’s trip to the Indy 500 and the company’s interest in thin-film installations.