In this episode of the Contractor’s Corner podcast, we talk to family-owned residential installation company Arizona Energy Pros about prioritizing volunteer energy work despite its small size. Rusty and Amanda Gardner took over the company in 2020 and forged a partnership with GivePower, a nonprofit with a mission to build and deploy solar-powered clean water and energy systems to communities in need around the world.
An edited portion of the interview is below, but be sure to listen to the full podcast for more insight on the benefits of keeping a business small in a saturated solar market.
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Let’s talk a little bit about how your company stands out from others. I know that you are doing a lot of nonprofit work, which is pretty unique to a small company. So tell me how you got into that.
Amanda Gardner, AEP: Donating time has always been the core value of this company. When Rusty and I took over the company, we felt like we wanted to allow that to go into the employees as well, and not just be the shareholders of the company that may be donating funds or donating time. We wanted that to become part of the culture.
We came to GivePower through LinkedIn. I had never heard of them before. We had our initial meeting with them where we had talked about what they are all about, and then we just felt like that was something that was right for us.
What is that partnership like? I understand you have a trip planned in July?
Amanda: We’re so excited about that. The partnership basically is [that] a portion of the solar proceeds go to GivePower once the solar project is installed. You have a goal, and once this goal is met, you get to take 10 employees to a “trek.” They have several countries that they work with. A lot of them don’t have access to clean water, or they don’t have access to electricity at all. The trek that we will be going on in July is a village that doesn’t have access to electricity, so our employees will build some kind of power — I don’t know the details of it yet, [except] for this village to have power.
What’s been your employee feedback on this?
Amanda: We’ve had a lot of people very interested in going and I think it’s something that’s gotten us all really excited. It’s a really awesome feeling to know that we can give back to communities just with our skills — really, their skills because I personally do not have any electric abilities. They get to go out there and use their skills to help this community, and that really gets them excited.
What are some trends in rooftop installs that you’re seeing in your region?
Rusty Gardner: The third quarter of last year was when we did our battery push, where we’ve got the guys trained up and we started trying to sell the batteries out to the customers and everything’s working out well there.
I just finished a gentleman’s house that put in a Generac battery, and he let me know this morning that his power went out. But his TV came back on so everything was OK. His wife had to microwave her coffee, but that’s OK. They could still open the garage door to leave.
About an hour later, he got his power back on and he was just so thankful that all that stuff worked. That’s the first time I’ve gotten a phone call from a customer that bought the battery and had that benefit.
Where we’re seeing trends, it would be EV chargers, batteries and a few generators sprinkled in here and there. I think people are realizing that power isn’t guaranteed and it might be nice to have some sort of backup.
That’s got to be a cool feeling to be like, “Oh, I did this. I’ve made this guy able to get out of his garage today.”
Rusty: It really is, and we take it for granted. My family owns a cabin up north and we’ve had an off-grid solar system up there for years, so we’ve been really spoiled. We’re just used to having electricity, so we take it for granted what the batteries are actually capable of. This little text message story today day was pretty cool to read, to experience, because it was all new to him. He just noticed that everybody else is wandering outside looking around, and he’s still watching TV.