Barely whisper the name “Sandy” on Long Island and PTSD sets in for many residents. The 2012 hurricane cost New York $41.9 billion in recovery and mitigation expenses, and millions in the Northeast were without power for almost two weeks. When Hurricane Isaias hit earlier this month in the middle of a pandemic, concern was high. Calls for energy storage systems increased significantly for Long Island residential and commercial solar installer SUNation, and now demand for batteries is far outpacing the company’s supply.
In this episode of the Contractor’s Corner podcast, Solar Power World editor-in-chief Kelly Pickerel talks with Scott Maskin, CEO of SUNation, about this crazy year, from being essentially shut down for 12 weeks at the beginning of COVID-19 to now being overwhelmed with business as the next natural disaster hits.
A portion of the interview is below, but be sure to listen to the full podcast for even more insight, including more about the difficult process of getting solar installation deemed an essential service in New York during early COVID shutdowns and the good things the installer does in the community through its nonprofit SUNation Cares.
Find the Contractor’s Corner podcast on your favorite podcast app.
Has coronavirus led to more people wanting to have energy storage?
We do a lot of commercial work here, and we talk to Long Island CEOs. You’re spending money on making sure your team is secure and outfitted to work from home and business continues, but what about not having power? Imagine that COVID happened during Sandy. Where would your business be? You have to make sure you can communicate with your leadership team working from home. Isaias really hammered it home. Everybody was talking about being able to work from home and this is the new norm. Well the new norm sucks if you have no power. If people are going to be working from home, there are going to be outages and it’s going to interrupt business which is going to interrupt commerce. So making an investment like that in your staff is prudent.
SUNation has been around since 2003. Has this year been the craziest portion of business?
Personally at the CEO level, this has definitely been the toughest thing for me, no question. There was no solid plan. It’s one thing to have a problem and work toward a solution. It’s another thing to have a problem and not have sound footing on what the solution is going to be. There was about a four-month period where I did nothing but hang on and try to keep the business together. I was on the phones with customers making sure deals were getting sold, because if sales fall off, ultimately everything is going to fall off. You roll up your sleeves and get involved, which is frankly a good thing because it regrounds you. We call it a solarcoaster. There’s never been a time where we are climbing up and didn’t know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was going to be that fall, that exhilarating drop.
What does SUNation hope to accomplish in the next few years?
If we can get out of 2020 in one piece, that would be super welcome. COVID gave the company an opportunity to reboot. When you grow your business super rapidly, it’s kind of like a hamster wheel. You’re running around in the wheel and adding staff to make revenue, and sometimes it’s good to be able to stop. It’s good to reboot and retool and refocus your company. We changed some of our processing stuff. If I can get through 2020 flat, that would be a win. For the next couple years, if we could have a little moderate growth…we’re more interested in profitability now than growth. That was a tactical change for us.