Over the next few years, the Midwest has the potential to become a hotbed of solar growth, according to a SEIA news release. Kansas residential and commercial installer Cromwell Solar sees this opportunity and serves as a reliable resource for solar information and development in this area.
“We’re in a bit of an underserved market as far as people’s access to a renewable energy provider,” said Chris Rogge, director of solar services for Cromwell Solar, of the installer’s middle-of-the-country location. “There haven’t been a lot of resources for them to get new information or find out what’s current. We try to make our [social media] posts informative and interesting to read and worth sharing. Once people find out about us and like us and experience the work that we’ve done, it’s a good way for them to share our contact information with their friends.”
Cromwell Solar got its start in 1982 as an environmental company that worked on solar thermal projects before really transitioning to full-time PV around 2008. The company installs residential and commercial projects mainly in Kansas and Missouri. Rogge said that some areas of the Midwest still need some basic solar education.
“We have a lot of municipal power companies and energy co-ops,” he said. “Solar is still pretty new in a lot of parts of [Kansas]. We find ourselves spending a lot of time in some of those markets explaining the technology and explaining what other locations have done to allow net metering to take place. Sometimes we’re leading the charge for solar in the area.”
Although kind of a stand-alone leader in some areas, Cromwell Solar takes no shortcuts when it comes to installation. Having four NABCEP-certified PV installers on staff is something in which the company takes great pride.
“We found the NABCEP Continuing Education Conference has been a great resource for us,” Rogge said. “It lets us reach out to other NABCEP-certified installers that we may not have access to in a smaller market like the Midwest.
“The more people hear about [certified installers], the more important it becomes,” he continued. “Some of our competitors have NABCEP-certified installers. Just having one or two of us is no longer an advantage. We get as many people NABCEP certified [on staff] as we can.”
Having multiple employees working on NABCEP re-certification courses every three years ensures Cromwell Solar is up-to-date with the latest installation techniques, which helps when difficult projects arise.
“We really like stretching our legs on projects and encountering new challenges,” Rogge said. “It gives us an opportunity to work as a team, combine our experiences and figure out the right solutions we may not have thought of before.”
Cromwell Solar is currently working on a complex project for a local food co-op. In addition to rooftop and carport installations, Cromwell Solar is also designing a custom patio pergola that will hold 16 solar panels and offer shelter to diners below. With continuous operation of refrigeration systems and up to a 10% increase in conventional energy costs each year, Merc Co+op was hands-on with finding ways to reduce the store’s energy use.
“We’re not a one-call-close kind of company. Every project we do is really custom-designed specifically for their future needs,” Rogge said. “When you have a customer that wants to take part in that process, it’s a big advantage to them and to us. It lets us know which way we should push the system, if we should go for economics or if they want to offset 100% of their carbon footprint.”
Above all, Cromwell Solar enjoys bringing solar to underserved communities.
“That’s what we enjoy, getting people the energy freedom that they want and letting them see it through to completion,” Rogge said.