The “public safety power shutoffs” that are happening throughout California may be an inconvenience to utility customers, but they’re providing a business opportunity to many solar installers. For Santa Cruz-based contractor Allterra Solar, the PG&E shutoffs specifically have increased its residential solar-plus-storage project pipeline.
“It’s had a real big effect on everything. The level of interest in battery storage has skyrocketed. Solar interest in general has gone up,” said Allterra CFO Micah Breeden. “The phone’s ringing a lot more often these days.”
A Tesla Powerwall dealer since 2017, Breeden said Allterra Solar is open to other storage technologies, especially as interest picks up.
“The region we’re in is fed by Silicon Valley, so [in 2017] we weren’t getting calls for storage, we were just getting calls for the Tesla Powerwall,” he said. “We’re excited about what is going to happen moving forward. The industry as a whole and the consumers have really changed. Especially with the PG&E outages, everyone is really interested in storage. The conversations are changing from the Tesla Powerwall to just storage and people wanting to look at other solutions.”
The main focus for Allterra Solar since its founding 15 years ago has been to provide the best solution for its customers. That’s why the company was a little late to the storage game in California — it wanted to see other products in action before offering systems to customers.
“We like to not have a ton of offerings. We want to streamline everything because it just makes us much more efficient from sales through design and installation and warehousing and ordering,” Breeden said. “We want to make sure that we have the best solution out there, so we’re going to monitor the market and see what comes of it.”
Allterra believes this focus on customer satisfaction is why the company’s jobs are largely referral-based.
“We really want to leave them with a great experience, and that starts from the sales process. It’s not a pushy sales process, it’s more educational. We want to make sure they understand everything and we’re giving them a solution that fits their needs,” Breeden said. “Our installers do great work. They put that extra attention to detail on conduit runs or little things like that that mean a lot to the homeowner. That experience lingers with them. If they’ve had a great experience, they’re going to tell people.”
The goal for the next few years is for Allterra Solar to grow from installing 1.5 MW annually to 2 MW without losing that customer focus. Breeden said that will happen as long as the company keeps everything in-house.
“Our focus is on constantly improving our processes so we can maximize our efficiencies internally. That can lead to doing more work while maintaining the quality control we have that our customers are counting on,” he said. “We have really good employees that have been in the industry a long time. We create a work environment that is relaxed but professional. People are happy to come to work, and the employees take pride in their work. That really shows in the end product. Going about things a little different has helped us get a name in the community.”