Almost ten years ago, we started my former company, CivicSolar, in this 300 sq ft downtown San Francisco office with 3 guys and a website. CivicSolar grew up to become the leading web-enabled solar equipment distribution company in the US and was recently acquired by CED Greentech. You can hear CivicSolar’s story in this video.
In our first year in business, sometime during 2010, I remember us getting a call from Phil, a former banker, who told us he was getting into the business of solar installation. He asked us a number of technical questions. And before he shelled out thousands of dollars to purchase his first set of solar panels and inverters for his first solar project, he asked us if he could come by to our office to check us out. I guess he wanted to meet us in person before he wired us his money.
Fast forward 10 years, CivicSolar has served 1,000’s of customers like Phil, and helped them to get into the business of solar. Most of them, without ever a face-to-face in person meeting. (Yes, most of our business was conducted over the web, phone and video calls.) And, Phil’s company, CleanFactor Energy is now one of the premier solar companies in Sonoma county and SF Bay Area.
Phil’s company is not a national behemoth like SolarCity or SunRun, rather something much better for the market. He is small, nimble and local. He understands his customer’s needs, and customizes solutions (the equipment, the design, and the financing,…) based on his customer’s unique needs.
There are more than 1 million electricians and more than 5 million building and construction professionals in the US. Probably 20 times that number all over the world. We have more than 100,000 electrical contracting businesses in the US. Less than 5% of them are currently installing solar and advanced energy solutions.
We need more Phil’s to get into the business of installing solar and offer their solutions to local communities. With SolarAcademy, we hope to facilitate just that. So, we can help communities claim their own clean, healthy and balanced power.