Member Spotlight: Eagle Point Solar
Interview with Barry Shear
Founder & CEO of Eagle Point Solar
What got you into solar and why are you advocating for it here in Iowa?
I got into solar in 2011 because it was an industry that barely existed with unlimited potential. It comported with my environmental values and most potential customers feel that way as well.
I am advocating for solar in Iowa (and Wisconsin and Illinois) because it is vital for the future economy and the health of the planet.
ISETA is a rather low-key, member-driven organization that is politically effective. Solar is generally not a partisan issue, it is a “what’s best for utility” issue. Utilities are often interested in their profits and market share. We need our advocacy to contribute to national and regional organizations such as SEIA, ELPC, IEC, and others.
Tell us a little more about your company
Eagle Point Solar, LLC (“EPS”) was founded by me in 2011. Originally it was going to be a “passive” investment but I got deeply interested in it. Competition wasn’t significant from other installers but it was significant from utilities that didn’t want distributed generation to happen.
We, as of this moment, have completed approximately 475 projects, approaching 10 MW of installs. We have more than 70 projects, large and small, in our backlog right now. I have five full-time salesmen who are technical salesman and know what they are selling. I have four system designers, three in accounting, a receptionist and the remainder of the 45 heads are installers.
We will build any solar array but never plan to be a utility scale solar developer because margins and risk at that level are too low/high to be worth investing our capacity in rather than our core business.
One of the highlights, of many, was winning a Supreme Court Case in 2014 in a fight that pitted the Iowa Solar Universe against me and all other installers. We won!
What have been some of the challenges to grow solar in your areas?
Utilities, changing rate structures to impact the economics after the horses have left the barn.It is a gross oversimplification to say every solar array is a revenue loss to utilities because it gives no credit for the value of solar or the value of the avoided costs.
Competitors who pop up and sell on price without making the investment in training, technology, and expertise.
Capital and soft costs to do solar deals, particularly with PPAs.
A well run solar installer IS A CONSTRUCTION COMPANY. While we are not building hospitals and nuclear power plants, the work has to be accurate and correct. These projects have to last for 25 years or more. We have made minor mistakes in our seven years and learn from them filing these mistakes in our knowledge base.
Being a full spectrum solar installer for projects of all size requires equipment, monetary (and human) capital, which neither is cheap.
What are the next steps for you and ISETA to help grow this emerging market?
Prove out the value matrix that solar is good for an offtaker’s (residential, commercial, municipal, etc.) finances and environment.
ISETA has to represent quality and experience where the customer gets at least what they bargained for and more. The market will grow on its own momentum, we have to inform policy leaders as well as the public that incentives and favorable policies and regulations are good for everybody, including utilities.
In a perfect world here in Iowa, does every house, farm , building or parts of our land have solar on it?
Clearly not. You should not be able to build a ground array in the middle of a residential community, its not fair to neighbors. Roof arrays in a residential setting should be perfectly fine.
As to farms, the viability of solar depends a lot on what the farmer does. Animal operations, emphatic yes because they use energy every day. Grain operations, likely not because they have several demand peaks with minimal use the rest of the year.