It’s been a couple of years since we first covered SolaTrim. SolaTrim was designed as a protective barrier that’s both aesthetically pleasing and easy to install. SolaTrim is made up of all-weather aluminum barrier that provides a clean, finished look to any solar installation. The panels are stiffened to resist warping and bending, and its diamond-stamped to facilitate airflow.
We caught up with SolaTrim president Bob Smith to find out how things are going.
SPW: What inspired you to launch SolaTrim?
BS: We felt that the current construction model for residential solar was incomplete in that the rooftop system was vulnerable to negative environmental impact, specifically in the area underneath the solar panels. Additionally, rooftop systems are sometimes seen as an eyesore. We wanted to help fix that.
I managed construction operations for a solar company in Northern California and the issue would come up occasionally. A customer would want a critter guard but our crews could only improvise a solution with some sort of wire screening using fasteners and tie downs. There was never really a practical solution with which to address critter protection long term. Also, as I saw the invoices for the makeshift critter guards come across my desk, I saw it was also expensive. So, I concluded there needed to be a more aesthetic and cost-effective solution for this problem.
Coincidentally, around that time a friend and associate of mine who was in gutter-protection products called me with the question of testing advanced adhesives to attach a protective barrier to the solar module frames. We met to discuss the idea and over time refined some designs, tested tape and looked at actually manufacturing such a product. Through our R & D we found a way to do it that would reduce installation costs and provide an aesthetic skirting as well. So, we filed with a patent attorney and began manufacturing SolaTrim ST-001 in January of 2015. We added a second barrier, the ST-055 in September of 2016.
SPW: What lies ahead for SolaTrim?
BS: We’ll keep working to maintain our growth domestically as U.S. solar installers continue to adopt SolaTrim in greater numbers. Our Canadian market remains robust and we just added a new distributor in the United Kingdom. Currently, SolaTrim is working with U.S. trade consultants to begin exporting our barrier to Australia, and we are in preliminary talks right now with a large business in India that is hoping to bring SolaTrim there. Judging from the regular inquiries I receive from solar industry professionals in other nations, there is no doubt in my mind that SolaTrim can be a global product.
SPW: Why should solar installers consider using SolaTrim?
BS: SolaTrim provides an aesthetic and durable, all-climate aluminum skirting that gives a finished look to the system and protects it from pests, leaves and other environmental damage. A rooftop solar system is vulnerable throughout its lifespan without backside module protection.
Closing percentages increase with a sales presentation of a better-looking, protected system. Customer satisfaction levels rise when it’s understood installers are protecting the system and improving the aesthetics of rooftop panels. Greater satisfaction leads to more referrals, which lowers the cost of acquisition for solar sales.
I believe it’s important to remember, when a consumer signs a residential solar contract, the industry is making a promise that is threefold: productivity, longevity and safety. Installing the SolaTrim barrier makes it easier to keep that promise.
SPW: To what do you attribute SolaTrim’s success?
BS: We wanted to make a product that supported residential solar in a meaningful way. Infestation is a serious problem that can be very expensive to repair. We’ve been able to demonstrate that SolaTrim can eliminate environmentally caused O&M expenses for the life of the system. We’ve seen it’s a product that gives peace of mind to both installers and consumers. Finally, and importantly, profit margins are improved as Installers can see as much as $.20 / Watt benefit.
Our barrier product has been in the field for over three years now, and more and more installers have experienced the ease of installation and practical benefits of using SolaTrim. Once they do, they begin to add it to more projects and SolaTrim becomes standard equipment. That’s all we hoped for: a product to help the renewable energy industry continue to grow.