Solar Optimum (No. 97 on the 2018 Top Solar Contractors list) is celebrating a decade of residential and commercial solar installations. One key to its success is embracing new market opportunities.
Several years ago, the company was contracted as an EPC for a solar project on a large shopping mall. Ara Krikorian, VP of commercial development for Solar Optimum, said opportunities to install on other megamalls just ballooned from there.
“We’ve constructed solar projects for nearly every large mall from the Central Valley through Southern California,” he said.
Krikorian said solar makes sense in all industries, and large malls are no exception. Malls have high cooling and lighting costs. Solar helps offset those loads producing significant savings as well as providing environmental benefits that can bring malls some positive PR.
“Operating expenses are factors that every business deals with, and if there is a practical and economical way to decrease those costs, any business will do it,” he said. “Solar’s value exists; articulating it well enough for executives to understand is all that’s needed to bridge the gap.”
Although traditional malls in many parts of the country have struggled to stay open, California malls have been able to adapt by moving away from enclosed buildings and toward more mixed-use, open space areas. No matter the design, malls offer plenty of room for solar on roofs or parking structures. Adding solar to decrease operating costs gives malls a fighting chance to compete against the increasing online shopping market.
But these projects don’t come without challenges.
“You have tens of thousands of customers entering and exiting these facilities daily, dealing with a thorny engineering endeavor, having multiple interconnections thousands of feet away, navigating the logistical nightmare of staging and coordinating utility shutdowns and backup power,” Krikorian said. “Safety for both our personnel and retail patrons is paramount, and most of the industry doesn’t think about that regularly. It is even more essential for projects like this.”
Despite the unique hurdles, he said Solar Optimum’s experience and vertical integration allows the company to plan for and navigate the complexities of massive retail centers.
“Finding markets that are underserved, understanding what value you can bring them and scaling to further grow that value is what’s necessary for any company,” Krikorian said. “Large malls aren’t our core business, but it’s definitely a market that we serve well.”
This story was featured exclusively in our 2018 Top Solar Contractors issue. See the issue and full list of top U.S. solar installers here.