Aurora Energy has established a name for itself in the Washington, D.C., area as a risk-taking, ahead-of-the-curve solar installer. The company has evolved over the last three decades and sees its specialty in commercial projects that may need a little custom engineering.
In this episode of the Contractor’s Corner podcast, Cord Briggs, managing director of Aurora Energy’s D.C. office, talks about the company’s desire to take care of its customers seeking all the financial and environmental benefits that come with installing solar. This has led Aurora Energy to branch out into community solar and take on more unique projects like green roofs.
A portion of the interview is below, but be sure to listen to the full podcast for even more insight, including how the latest solar panel tariff extension battle is already affecting supply.
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Aurora Energy has been around since 1994. Why did the company decide to focus exclusively on commercial solar in 2016?
We were seeing the evolving market. A lot of players were coming into the residential space who had a different model than Aurora Energy. We’ve always been a somewhat small business, just focused on the D.C., Maryland and Virginia region. We didn’t want to compete on just scale, doing thousands of projects. We really wanted to offer customers the best solution, and we’re excited about the commercial space. It’s still one of the most underserved spaces in the PV industry. We wanted to focus on quality and address that underserved market.
Aurora Energy completed an interesting installation at United Therapeutics in Silver Spring, Maryland. It’s a 1-MW project spread across rooftops, carports and even on the façade. How’d Aurora get involved with this project?
It was an RFP put out by the general contractor. There weren’t many solar companies lining up to throw their hat in the ring. It was a very challenging project that took a lot of custom engineering. Very few solar projects out there require the amount of custom engineering work and integration with different trades that we had to put together to execute this kind of project. We’re really proud. It’s in downtown Silver Spring, and it’s a very striking installation.
What’s the commercial energy storage market like in your region?
It doesn’t really exist. It saddens me to say that. I’ve had some clients who are very keen on it, and the problem really comes down to commercial buildings having a lot of load, and to economically be able to back that load up for resiliency purposes — we’re going to lose right now every time to a generator. The incentives are just not high enough to close that gap. We’d love to see the ability to play with time-of-use tariffs and demand charges, but I just have not seen the use case yet for customers we work with. The Atlantic area here is still pretty low in terms of total solar capacity installed. So it’s not really a burning need, but as more solar gets installed, it’s going to be something that policymakers are really going to need to get in front of.