Phil and Nancy Brodhagen didn’t set out to build a family-run solar business in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but when the pieces fell into place, it turned out to be the best way to manage Peak View Solar.
One day, Phil came home from his IT job and decided he couldn’t sit behind a desk anymore. He was a tinkerer and had DIYed an off-grid solar system to power backyard lighting, so he told his wife Nancy that he was going to work in green energy.
“He went back to school, thinking he would graduate and go work for somebody, but his professors realized where he lived and said there’s a real need [for contractors] in the area,” Nancy said. “Phil did this on his own for a good seven or eight years, [but] he just couldn’t do it alone anymore.”
That’s where the rest of the family came in. Phil and Nancy’s two sons, Matt and Doug, joined the installation team, and Nancy quit her outside CPA job to support Peak View Solar’s sudden growth. Phil and Nancy’s daughter Debbie (with her MBA in finance) came on board more recently to round out the team.
“The company grew more than I thought, and as it grew and I got out of the garage and into an office and a warehouse, eventually each one just decided one day, ‘I’m coming to work for you,'” Phil said. “It wasn’t like I was asking. [They said,] ‘I’m coming on full-time. You need it.'”
Peak View Solar installed over 1.5 MW of primarily residential solar last year in the Colorado Springs area, a big increase from the 400 kW installed just five years ago when the company was known as El Paso Green Energies.
“Back in 2008 when I came up with that name, the idea was to do everything. It seemed like we were going to do everything,” Phil said. “But now with Peak View Solar, we’re going to be installing even more solar every year, as well as more storage.”
Peak View is working with pro-storage local utility Colorado Springs Utilities on developing an incentive program to encourage more storage adoption. In a competitive market, Peak View’s early involvement with new technologies makes it stand out.
“The market is really good right now. We have a lot of out-of-state companies coming to do sales because we’ve got a few utility companies that offer some pretty nice rebates,” Nancy said. “There’s quite a bit of competition, but there’s definitely room for everybody.”
Since the beginning, Peak View has provided customers with a 10-year production guarantee and workmanship warranty. Phil said providing those extra guarantees is a no-brainer.
“The manufacturers’ warranties don’t cover how it’s been designed or how it was installed, so to protect our clients against the worries of modules moving around and things like that, our workmanship warranty covers that,” he said. “As for our production guarantee, since we design it, we should know what it’s going to do. We can stand behind that production for the first 10 years and a manufacturer’s warranty will take care of it after that. It helps us stand out in the crowded field of solar installers around here.”
Giving the customer that extra support led Peak View to really test which module brands were the best to offer. Once a big supporter of SolarWorld, Nancy said the limited supply of U.S. solar panels today made the company explore foreign brands it could install with confidence. When supply is available, Peak View likes to use Silfab or Solaria U.S. panels, but it also supports Trina Solar and Hanwha Q CELLS imports.
“When we sell a system, it could take about eight weeks for that system to get installed because it has to go through all the permitting and utility approvals. Eight weeks is a long time if you promise one panel and then try to get that panel eight weeks down the road,” she said. “After the tariff came into place, the U.S. manufacturers were the ones that actually raised their prices. It was hard to justify having a customer spend more to [buy American]. We give each customer an option of a lower-cost panel that’s from overseas or a higher-cost panel that’s from the U.S.”
As the competition increases throughout Colorado, the Brodhagens believe their dedication to service and their family values will keep them around for many more years.
“The fact that all three of our kids are here … this is their future,” Nancy said. “They work really hard every day to branch out and find those areas where the company can grow and expand to make sure that Peak View Solar isn’t the mom-and-pop store that goes away.”