After a drawn-out battle, the new NEM 3.0 net billing regime is officially in place in California. Residential contractors are learning to adapt their businesses to ensure homeowners see adequate savings through their investments.
Lancaster, California-based Vibe Solar has pivoted its business to adapt to the new normal, adding full roofing services to its offerings and completing certifications to meet the demand for more storage installations. While systems look a bit different now, president Xiomara Roman-Torres still sees a bright future ahead for the company with no signs of slowdown.
An edited portion of the interview is below, but be sure to listen to the full podcast for more insight on adjusting to new state solar incentive structures.
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Solar Power World: What has been the most rewarding moment of your career so far with Vibe Solar?
Xiomara Roman-Torres: Seeing a lot of my electricians move up and get their own C-10 licenses. A lot of my employees came in, they knew nothing, and now they’re major powerhouses in the industry.
I would say the most rewarding and best experience of Vibe is we take a certain percentage of every single project sold and we dump it into a bucket. And we have no idea what we’re going do with this bucket, but it’s basically just called, “good vibes.” And we’re going to do something good with that money. Last year, we donated a little over $300,000 to multiple teachers and classroom projects. We’ve funded a lot of projects for teachers that are struggling to just get supplies their kids need.
It’s giving back as much as we possibly can. We’ve done it every year we’ve been in business. And every year we grow three-times from the previous year. It’s good karma. It’s paying it forward and it’s just coming back to us the next year.
What was the most unique project your company has completed?
Roman-Torres: We did the Planet Fitness commercial project in Palmdale, and that was unique in the sense that they’re open 24/7, so finding the right moments to cut power and get everything connected was kind of an interesting experience. It was like, “OK, I need you at the site at 2 in the morning, get it going! And you guys have 45 minutes for power shut down and then we’ve got to get it back up and running.”
What is preventing you from installing more projects?
Roman-Torres: NEM 3.0 has rattled the industry; it’s rattled us a little bit. We are just now getting over that hump where people are [understanding] that the [electric] rates are still going to go up, nothing’s really going to change, so I still just need to [go solar].
I wouldn’t really say there’s anything that’s preventing us from growing or moving forward. I’ve always been that person that’s like, “walls can be broken and there’s nothing that gets in your way.” It just might be a little bit of an obstacle, but we’ll find another way through it.
A lot of companies in the industry in California have closed their doors because of NEM 3.0, and I still have my original staff and more. We’re still growing and we’re still doing three-to-five projects a day. We’re still slapping glass.
Has NEM 3.0 changed what your systems look like? Are you selling more storage?
Roman-Torres: Definitely a lot more storage. When it was NEM 2.0, we were just doing like one battery. A customer would go with maybe one or two [batteries]. Now we’re doing three to five on projects.
So definitely the same system size, maybe not as insanely large as they were in the previous year where we were seeing a lot of 15- to 22-kW systems on residentials. Now, we’re doing a lot more 10- to 13-kW, but we’re doing three to four or five battery packs on them. It’s definitely changed a lot for my installers — now it’s like, “I need you guys from the roof to start getting electrical training. It’s time for you guys to start going to school and get these classes taken care of.”
Because we’re doing the Tesla roof tiles, I have gotten my roofing license. I’m C-39 and C-10 licensed in the industry. So we’re capable of doing the vast majority of the project now, instead of before, where we would call a roofing company and go, “Hey, I think the roof needs to get replaced.” Now we do it and the install.
What are some future products you’re looking forward to integrating into your systems?
Roman-Torres: We have started doing EV chargers and the batteries of course, but maybe more looking at energy management as a whole and really having homeowners dive deeper into their homes and going, “Let’s make sure we’re cutting this power and we’re doing laundry at this time.” There’s so many different little gadgets out there, but trying to look into how we can reduce energy overall and not just by solar.