Google image search “Idaho” and you’ll see beautiful landscapes, wide open spaces and snow-covered mountains. Maybe not the most obvious state for impressive solar growth, but you’d be surprised. People are moving to Idaho because of the scenery, and they’re requesting solar along the way.
Bryan Lawley, president of Boise-based solar installer EGT Solar, said when the company started in 2009, the state had barely 50 solar installations. Today he estimates Idaho’s total to be more than 2,800. And with Idaho expecting an annual population growth rate of 1.4% through 2025—three-times the national rate—demand for solar will only increase.
“We have some of the fastest rising projected power costs in the country because of the population increase,” Lawley said. “[It puts] a lot of backend pressure on Idaho Power to meet that consumer demand and scale up on infrastructure, which is all passed through cost. The faster the utility rates go up, the quicker solar clients’ money is recouped. That’s the main driving factor for the immense growth we’ve seen primarily over the last three to five years.”
EGT Solar has kept busy doing predominantly residential work as one of the original solar installers in Idaho. The company works on a holistic energy model and offers other products like solar attic fans and LED lights—anything to assist customers with lowering energy bills.
“We’ve seen a lot of companies converting to that type of [holistic] model, whether adding Nest thermostats or solar attic fans and light tubes and LED lighting,” Lawley said. “That really distinguishes us from the very beginning, kind of being the trailblazers with that model.”
EGT Solar is also trailblazing with future energy advancements like batteries. In the last six months, EGT Solar has installed more than 40 LG Chem energy storage systems in the state—a big deal for anywhere in the country. Lawley said the rural areas of Idaho are especially interested in battery backup.
“We have a unique, leaning toward prepper, market here,” he said. “A lot of people in rural areas are asking for that. It’s not so much an issue with the utility here with power quality or grid capacity being a major issue or driving force with that, but it’s more personal viewpoints and standpoints here in a pretty conservative state overall.”
Almost all EGT Solar projects use black-on-black modules, mostly because HOAs and neighbors demanded sleek panels as the Idaho solar market took off.
“In a new, emerging market, there’s kind of a black eye in the industry on the look of solar panels on a residential application and being an eyesore and creating glare and all these negative things,” Lawley said. “Most people aren’t out there to live next to people for many years and create an enemy. [Black-on-black modules] are a tad less efficient because of the black and the heat, [but] most customers don’t even factor that into their decision. They just want it to look as high-end and as streamlined to the roof as they can.”
EGT Solar is all about designing energy programs that are a good fit for customers, and the referrals coming in reflect the company’s dedication to quality work. Lawley said EGT Solar is not hurting for solar leads. The biggest obstacle he sees is finding good salespeople and electricians to continue growing and meeting demand.
“Trade industries are at their busiest. Finding good quality individuals on the electrical journeyman side of things that really fit our culture is challenging. That’s challenging for any solar company in the United States to keep scaling up,” he said. “If we remedy that, sales fall right in line because the demand is certainly there. We almost can’t handle the volume of interest and leads that we have available to us.”
Lawley said EGT Solar wants to reach more corners of Idaho but has no plans to expand outside the state. Customers appreciate the company’s local roots.
“Idaho people are very partial to keeping their money local,” Lawley said. “When they find out a company is coming from out of state or a national brand, they’re far less apt to use them, regardless of price if they know that money is going to leave Idaho and be spent elsewhere. We drag that message home pretty hard. We don’t have any aims to expand into a national brand by any stretch of the imagination.”