How does a solar company based in Ireland break into the competitive U.S. market? With as big of a head start as possible, said Kingspan Energy’s Gavin Blower.
“We entered on the back of a very successful six years in the UK, Ireland and Australia,” said Blower, Kingspan’s general manager. “But to gain an initial platform in the United States, Kingspan acquired a solar and LED EPC that had been operating in Connecticut for over 30 years. That gave us a local skillset, the global reach but local knowledge, and a pipeline to develop.”
That acquired company—American Solar & Alternative Power—was based in Stamford, Connecticut, thus where Kingspan Energy set up its new North American headquarters. The company primarily works on commercial solar projects in the Northeast, aided by another starting advantage: a family of commercial buildings constructed under the Kingspan name.
The Kingspan parent company, founded in Ireland in 1965, provides building solutions for the construction industry worldwide, including insulation panels, roofing and solar power. Kingspan Group first entered the United States in 2001 and U.S. business represents 20% of the company’s global revenue. When Kingspan Energy came to Connecticut in 2014, there was already a large footprint of Kingspan customers present.
“Our group’s message is to insulate and generate,” Blower said. “We build the most efficient building envelope first and then generate onsite renewable energy. Our energy division wants to be synergistic and wants to add value to that [Kingspan Group] offering.”
Blower said he finds many of Kingspan Energy’s customers are passionate about reducing their carbon footprint and increasing energy savings. The Kingspan Group is just as passionate about its own energy efforts.
“We practice what we preach. The entire group from the insulated panels division, which is focused on building the most energy efficient building envelope, to our energy division, really speaks for the concept of insulating and generating for our customer,” Blower said. “The group itself has a corporate requirement to be net zero energy by 2020 and we’re 60% of the way there. It is a compelling story to tell our end users that our entire group is centered around energy efficiency. It allows us to speak to the customer that is also requiring the same goal as us.”
Working on a global level has given Kingspan Energy a unique view on solar installation.
“We’ve done projects across the world, and something that is really an obstacle in the United States that isn’t so [elsewhere] is the interconnection requirements,” Blower said. “Each utility, while they are regulated and required to allow solar, sometimes we see more obstacles than we’d like to see in new markets.”
Kingspan Energy’s future U.S. plans involve growing in the Northeast and other solar-strong states while also not forgetting about its enthusiastic commercial customers.
“Solar involves many obstacles—financing, permitting, AHJs, interconnection—but what I enjoy most is turning that system on and visiting the school or the commercial customer and hearing about their energy savings. It’s something that they’re proud about,” Blower said. “We navigated the process, the barriers or the obstacles that are in our way, and there’s a finished project and an offset of 60-80% of their energy consumption.”