The minds behind Hannah Solar may have entered the industry with a bit of naiveté 10 years ago, but they sure have things figured out now.
“I didn’t really know what the tax credits were, I didn’t know about depreciation, but I thought that solar was going to come of age fairly soon,” said CEO Pete Marte about his decision to start Hannah Solar in 2008. “We got going and really just didn’t look back. I named the company after my daughter who was two at the time. It’s all about the next generation, and we better be good stewards for the planet.”
Hannah Solar does a little bit of everything in the Southeast today—residential, commercial, small utility, EV, storage, O&M. This business diversity keeps its 120+ employees busy. And Hannah Solar is expanding. Marte anticipates a new Caribbean office opening mid-year.
“Right now, it’s kind of like the early days up here,” he said of the solar market in the Caribbean. “Any project is a good project. We’ll be doing large residential, a lot of storage down there.”
Most of Hannah Solar’s residential business comes through Solarize programs, which provide communities with group-purchasing options. In a Northern Atlanta suburb, Marte said nearly 80% of the Solarize customers who have gone solar have also opted for storage.
“Half of those folks I think don’t really know what they’re getting, and the other half are really educated about it,” he said of the storage interest. “We don’t know if we’re selling to the super educated, technical family that wants to consume as much clean energy as they can, or we’re just selling a Tesla Powerwall to someone with a Tesla who wants to complete the package. It’s a broad brush there.”
“There’s enough business for all of us,” Marte said of the competitive installer market. “The solar space in the Southeast is robust. Florida is just coming on board, in my opinion. Alabama is a huge land mass that has very little solar. It’s a good time to be in solar in the Southeast.”
Since Hannah Solar’s residential and C&I work isn’t affected by price fluctuations as much as the sensitive utility-scale market, Marte said he isn’t worried about the 30% tariff on imported cells and panels. And anyway, the official tariff announcement actually brought stability to panel prices, he said.
“It really started last May or June. Because the tariff could have been imposed retroactively, a lot of the manufacturers and supply chain were tight on supply,” Marte said. “Our prices were up pretty high—mid-50s, low 60s—so we’ve seen a slight retraction in that price since the tariff was announced and the manufacturers have some certainty.”
“The panel pricing is a third of the cost of the project, so with a 10% increase, we already experienced that with our pricing,” he said. “The impact of the tariff has already been felt, and we’re moving on. We might lose jobs—nothing is certain tomorrow in the solar world. But I do think we’re still in such a growth mode, this was just another little bump in the road for us in the industry. I’m hopeful and confident that we’re going to be building, not retracting.”
Hannah Solar plans to use that positivity and growth outlook as it enters its second decade.
“It’s been fun to grow with an industry that was so small in the Southeast when we started,” Marte said. “It’s great to get up every day to work at this.”
Make sure to listen to our full Contractors Corner podcast with Hannah Solar to hear more fun stories from the company, including the logistics behind getting solar materials to far away islands in the Pacific. Listen on Soundcloud, iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.