Picture this: A 15-year-old solar company with 250 employees, expanding into new markets and battling the PUC for solar mandates. Are we in California? Nevada? Nope, we’re in Maine.
“Maine has a real rugged, independent streak, a wonderful outdoors culture and relatively high electric rates. With those three factors and a good solar resource, you have a solar market,” said Fred Greenhalgh, creative services director of ReVision Energy based in Portland, Maine.
ReVision has been busy serving the Maine and New Hampshire markets for more than a decade. Just recently the company also expanded into Massachusetts and installed more than 13 MW of residential and small commercial solar last year across the three states. But the employee-owned company would like to go even bigger.
“It’s been a struggle to get policy to open up the bigger part of the market. We’d love to get into more big-scale stuff,” Greenhalgh said. “The residential solar market is our bread and butter and that is still going strong, even with shakeups to net-metering policy. There’s been some significant utility rate hikes in the last year or two. Any sort of monkeying with net-metering policy gets canceled out when electric rates go up.”
In 2017, ReVision did its first megawatt-scale projects ever in Maine with a pair of 1-MW installs. In a state with an unsupportive governor and PUC, taking on large-scale solar projects is quite the accomplishment.
“It’s not support so much as getting out of the way,” Greenhalgh said of what solar advocates want from the government. “We need to move into a position of actually having an intelligent discussion of what energy policy looks like. I would love to see what you see come out of Maine solar policy be ahead of the country instead of behind, because there’s such a pent-up demand.”
Moving into a pro-solar state like Massachusetts has been a worthwhile adjustment for ReVision. In Maine and New Hampshire, there’s still a lot of education involved with convincing people that solar is a good option. In Massachusetts, people know solar. Their neighbors have solar, and there are many different solar installers vying for business. So ReVision focuses on marketing what makes its company stand out.
“It’s a different world,” Greenhalgh said of the Massachusetts market. “We found there’s still a place for ReVision Energy there, even though there are plenty of other solar contractors. What we have to say about ourselves being an employee-owned, B Corp business really does resonate with people.”
In 2015, ReVision became a certified B Corp, which means it met rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Greenhalgh said the B Corp certification validates ReVision’s social mission.
“We want to be the people who you love what we’re doing so much,” Greenhalgh said. “Many people can successfully install solar panels, but do you want to be part of all the changes that ReVision Energy is leading—positive social change, policy change? That message really resonates with our customers.”
In addition to social responsibility, ReVision Energy also values excellent customer service. That’s part of the reason the company went to a 100% employee stock ownership plan.
“I joined 10 years ago when we were only 20 people,” Greenhalgh said. “The owners really tried to have it be a flat organization and everyone have an entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to solve problems. When you’re small, it’s easier to hold on to that culture, and it gets harder as you scale. So part of the employee-ownership is encouraging that mentality, going a little out of your way to solve that problem for your customer. You have a stake in making that happen.”
ReVision is using what it has learned in Massachusetts to predict and avoid potential problems that could arise as Maine’s market matures.
“What’s fun about being in a market like Massachusetts where it’s just a little bit more with the times, we get to figure out how to make the model work for a big project, perfect it and by the time Maine has caught up to Massachusetts, we as a company have mastered that and don’t have to learn it brand new,” Greenhalgh said. “We’re using the way the different state markets work to improve our craft for all our customers across the geographic reach.”
This month’s Contractors Corner podcast is sponsored by DuPont.
For over 40 years, DuPont PV materials have delivered proven performance and lasting value.