Almost 10 years ago, an Arizona commercial real estate advisor decided to get in the solar business.
“SunRenu Solar got started in a kitchen, and we’re not ashamed to say that,” said the company’s founder John McDonnell. “We started with a vision and serious work ethic.”
Because of McDonnell’s involvement in the commercial real estate market, he knew many commercial buildings in Phoenix could benefit from solar. He and other SunRenu founding members teamed up with local engineers and learned all they could about solar financing, and the rest is history.
“We designed a lot of systems, installed a lot of systems, and commercial has always been our niche from the beginning,” McDonnell said. “Our desire to know it all and be the best grew our company from a kitchen to about 25 employees.”
SunRenu Solar is just fine with its commercial niche within the state of Arizona. McDonnell said the team has assisted with developing projects in California, Florida and Colorado, but SunRenu has only turned wrenches within the Grand Canyon State.
“There’s enough of a market share here—less than 1% of commercial has gone solar,” McDonnell said. “That’s a large market share to tackle. With the amount of irradiation we get, it’s very good. Our cost of living is low, so we can keep our price points down on commercial.”
Small- to mid-sized commercial is SunRenu’s specialty, with nearly 85% of its projects being third-party financed. The company’s strong financing knowledge helps it work out good deals for many types of businesses.
“Some would say that churches are our specialty. We’ve done dozens of churches in Arizona,” McDonnell said. “It’s always great to save the Kingdom money.”
SunRenu doesn’t just focus on solar. Any time the company can encourage energy efficiency upgrades, it will work that into the final solar plan.
“We have the customer’s best interest in mind, like most other solar companies,” McDonnell said. “We always look to reduce the building envelope, reduce the load before we engage in a major solar project. Most of the time, it always points toward lighting, and LED upgrades are something we always recommend.”
Streamlining the permitting process is at the top of SunRenu’s wish list of how to improve the solar industry. The company does a lot of carport projects, and McDonnell said permits will often come back requesting landscape and irrigation plans, which adds time to the whole solar schedule.
“Going through the city permitting process and the red tape, if that would be streamlined, it would be much more advantageous to solar contractors,” he said. “Contractors make money when they do projects quickly. That elongates the timeline of a project. The utility company obviously doesn’t make things any faster as well.”
McDonnell said the constant requests and utility changes keep everyone at SunRenu on their toes.
“Every time the utility companies change things, that forces us to pivot and adjust accordingly,” he said. “There have been quite a few changes in Arizona with rebates and incentives and now net metering. But that’s the exciting part of our business. We’re always on our toes, we’re always pivoting, changing, figuring out work-arounds for utility rate schedules and tariffs.”
Even though there are daily obstacles to overcome, McDonnell said customer service is a top priority for SunRenu Solar.
“One of the best things that we can offer our clients is treating them like they’re going to buy again in six months,” he said. “Often times, if you’re going solar, it’s one and done. But we do not like to treat customers like that. We really like to elongate the relationship. That’s been a longevity point for us with referrals and making sure we have a great reputation to build quality systems.”