fastest-growing
September 13, 2016 | Jen Olson

A&R Solar has been named one of Washington’s fastest growing private companies by the Puget Sound Business Journal.

A&R’s revenues totaled more than $12.5 million in 2015, up from $5.7 million in 2014, and just $2.8 million in 2013. The company had 41 full-time employees in January 2016, compared with 27 in 2015, 19 in 2014, and 12 in 2013.

A&R specializes in solar photovoltaic (PV) installations and has added battery storage systems to its offerings.

The companies on the Business Journal‘s list employ more than 9,500 employees and have revenues totaling nearly $3.17 billion in 2015. A&R was one of 41 companies to make the list in 2015 and 2016. It was also named to the 2013 and 2014 lists.

The ranking of each company on the list will be announced at an event on Oct. 21.

rooftop
September 9, 2016 | Jen Olson

Conscious Company magazine interviewed A&R Solar CEO Reeves Clippard about the company’s philosophy and growth and his vision for the future.

What motivated you to make A&R an employee-owned company?

ccRC: I worked for very small companies where I had zero ownership stake, and I worked for mega-national companies where I had zero percent stake, and in both places, there’s this trend of, “how do you engage your employees to think like an owner and act like an owner?” Well, why don’t you just make them an owner? That seemed to be the simplest way. It’s certainly not the easiest way.

At this point, we are 100 percent employee-owned. All owners currently work here. Not every employee is an owner. We just rolled out a new ownership plan: people get their ownership after three years, and then they just get it; there’s no vesting schedule or anything like that. There are 43 employees right now and seven of us are currently owners. By the end of the year, 11 or 13 of us will be owners.

How has the technology improved since 2007, and what areas would you like to see continue improving?

RC: Panels have gotten more efficient, but not as much as a lot of people expect, thinking of Moore’s law and cell phones, how quickly computing advances. Solar panels do not follow that same kind of development curve.

The biggest improvements have been in process: simplification at an administrative level of being able to interconnect with the utility and get it through a permitting process. Also, standardization: manufacturers are able to reach an economy of scale to make sure that their product is compatible with the next product down the line. We’re keeping fewer parts on a truck and things are more universal so you can speed up the labor side.

Another important development is the panel manufacturers getting to a scale where prices have absolutely plummeted. They’re about 60 to 70 percent less than what they were just a couple of years ago. People are usually spending the same amount of money as they were, they’re just getting more for their buck.

What I’d like to see change is for people to realize that there is no magic bullet for solar two or three years down the line that will suddenly make the technology “viable.” It’s viable now. There’s no reason to wait three years. The government support that we have now may not be available in three years. Hopefully, we won’t need those incentives; I don’t think anyone in the solar industry wants to be married to incentives like we are, but we’re in a position where we need them until we can get to grid parity.

And I would like to see better ways for people to connect with their power. Right now, you just have a little LCD screen that says, “I’m producing these numbers that are a metric that I just don’t understand.” How do you get someone to think, “Okay, I really should change my behavior or think about my buying patterns in order to achieve some kind of goal” — be that net zero or being a producer or even just making whatever impact they think they should?

Read the whole interview.

Elma-Crowell
August 18, 2016 | Jen Olson

This post by A&R Solar CEO Reeves Clippard ran in the Huffington Post.

Sitting on top of a roof one rainy winter day in Seattle, my coworker and I talked about how we would do things differently if we ran our own solar installation company.

Andy and I agreed that we’d interact with our customers differently. We’d really listen to their needs and put quality first. We’d treat our employees like family and make business decisions that aligned with our values.

Months later, we each put in $350 to pay for our incorporation fees. We started scrounging in our couches for the money to buy the equipment and tools we needed to perform our work. We’d split any money we made to buy gas to get home from site visits. Our first employee sold mattresses on Craigslist because we couldn’t pay him on a regular basis.

It took a few years to hit our stride—a lot longer than our wives had hoped to support us. In 2015, not only was A&R Solar the top solar installer in the state of Washington, but our revenues totaled more than $12.5 million, up from $5.7 million in 2014, and just $2.8 million in 2013.

But we are not, and have never been, all about making money. In 2012 after a rigorous application process, we became a certified B Corporation. We made the decision in part to keep us accountable to those promises we made on that roof years before.

Continue reading on the Huffington Post.

Redmond-Blower3
August 5, 2016 | Jen Olson

One of A&R Solar’s Oregon customers has a home with amazing views of the Deschutes River.

The solar PV system consists of SolarWorld panels that are made in Oregon.

Bainbridge-GrowMay2016-5
August 3, 2016 | Jen Olson

For the second year in a row, A&R Solar has been named the top solar installer in the state of Washington.

Edmonds-RayA&R Solar employs 37 workers in Washington and Oregon, who installed 3.47 MW of solar in 2015, up from 1.07 MW in 2014. Many of those installations are residential homes across the state and include large-scale projects like Bainbridge Island’s Grow Community and community solar projects near Spokane, Vancouver, and Kennewick.

We work amid a burgeoning business market. The U.S. solar market is expected to grow 119 percent this year, according to global research firm GTM Research. While a majority of solar electricity is produced at large, utility-scale solar power plants, the greatest number of solar jobs are located with companies like A&R—firms doing the work to bring clean energy to the public. The solar sector employs 77 percent more workers than the U.S. coal mining industry does today, according to The Solar Foundation report.

In the Pacific Northwest, solar is going strong. The Pacific Northwest’s long summer days were made for solar, and thanks to all that sunlight and special utility programs, we can build energy credits in the summer months and work off of them during our darker months.

Ben Peterson Barn 4x6A&R, a certified B Corporation, also won in the Workforce Development category of the 2015 King County Executive’s Small Business Awards and was a finalist for the Puget Sound Business Journal’s 2015 Washington’s Best Workplaces. In 2013, 2014, and 2015, A&R was recognized by the Puget Sound Business Journal as one of Washington’s Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies.

We started A&R Solar with the idea of changing the way business was done in the world. We wanted to build a business structure that focused on respect for our employees, our customers, our community, and our planet. We believe that by aligning our personal values with our business, we will achieve incredible results.

Leavenworth-ButruilleThe Top 500 Solar Contractors List is developed by Solar Power World magazine to recognize the work completed by solar contractors across the U.S. and Canada. The companies on the list are growing the economy, providing jobs and offering electricity consumers a choice about how they get their power. The list was released July 26.

“The companies on this year’s list exude solar-business brilliance, and they deserve to be recognized not only for being great companies but also for how their work positively impacts the environment,” said Kathie Zipp, managing editor of Solar Power World. Solar energy is a renewable resource with great potential to significantly reduce our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a national solar industry association.

Interested in how solar energy can work for your home? Fill out the form below for a free, no-pressure consultation.

sonnenBatterie-eco-1
July 20, 2016 | Jen Olson

Editor’s Note: A&R Solar continues to monitor the evolving battery storage market. In addition to waiting for the Tesla Powerwall to become available to installers in the Pacific Northwest, we are also researching other companies that offer similar systems.

While the Tesla Powerwall dominates in the media, a competitor is quietly gaining ground in the U.S. storage market.

Sonnen, a Germany company with corporate headquarters in Los Angeles, has completed more than 12,000 installs of its storage systems and has more than 50 percent of Germany’s storage market. Tesla is in the early stages of rolling out the Powerwall, and and there is no word as to when units will start shipping to the Northwest.

But beyond experience, there are two major differences between these two storage systems: Sonnen comes with a power inverter built-in while the Powerwall requires you to purchase a separate inverter. (Storage systems require inverters separate from your solar inverter.) Sonnen also offers a 10-year, 10,000-cycle warranty, while the Powerwall’s warranty is, well, a little complicated right now.

Storage systems are still gaining traction in the United States but are becoming increasingly popular as energy prices increase and the technology becomes more affordable. Many of the systems are stackable, allowing homeowners to increase capacity over time.

The most popular reason to invest in storage in the Northwest is to keep your family powered during outages. Because it recharges automatically during the day, storage is perfect for extended power outages.

Unlike generators, battery storage qualifies for the Federal Income Tax Credit as long as 75 percent or more of the energy it stores come from your solar energy system. While Washington and Oregon don’t have time-of-use surcharges (electricity prices increase at peak usage times), some industry experts believe that changes could be on the horizon. Having battery storage protects you from those rate spikes by allowing you to draw energy from your storage system during peak hours.

To receive the federal tax benefits, your home must be connected to the grid, even though Sonnen’s Eco system has off-grid capabilities.

Sonnen has won several awards, including Greentech Media’s 2016 Grid Edge Award for innovation, and Cleantech’s 2015 Company of the Year Award in both Israel and Europe. Its parent company has been in business for more than a century.

To learn more about Sonnen and other solar storage options, or to get a quote for adding a storage system to your existing solar PV system, please reach us at (206) 707-9937 or (503) 420-8680.

sonnenBatterie-eco-2
June 21, 2016 | Jen Olson

Tesla created a frenzy in the renewable energy market when it announced its first two energy storage products last year.

The Powerwall has been piloted in a few select areas in the United States but has yet to become widely available. However, Tesla isn’t the only–or the first–player in the storage game. A number of competitors are emerging in this new market, from established companies to startups that have yet to release products. The good news for consumers is that battery storage will qualify for the Federal Income Tax Credit, as long as the battery system is charged more than 75 percent from solar.

We’re watching the battery storage market carefully and wanted to introduce you to a few of the companies that are competing with the Tesla Powerwall:

Sonnen

sonnenone_tect_specs_home2x_3Sonnen (pronounced zon-nen) has been dubbed “The Tesla Killer” by some industry insiders.

The German-based company began offering its system to U.S. customers in December 2015. Meanwhile in Germany, the company launched a community network platform where a virtual grid powered by solar and storage allows members to trade power among themselves while exporting the excess to the public grid. The CEO calls the platform “the Airbnb of energy.”

Compared to the first Tesla Powerwalls being deployed now, Sonnen has more than 10,000 systems in use around the world and is in the eighth generation of its residential battery product. In the United States, systems have been installed in 12 states, including Hawaii, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, South Dakota, Missouri, Louisiana, George, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. It also offers a 10-year, 10,000-cycle guarantee, meaning that the company stands behind the system the first 10,000 times it is discharged and recharged. That’s more than 27 years if you are using the system one full cycle a day.

Adara Power

Juicebox34Founded in 2013 as JuiceBox Energy, Adara Power offers an 8.6 kWh storage system for residential use. The company says it has installed systems in seven U.S. states, including California, Nevada, New York, Maine, Hawaii, Utah and North Carolina.

The system, comprised of lithium-ion batteries, has a controller to monitor the state of the battery, the PV output and building load from the inverter. It has a 10-year, 4,000-cycle guarantee.

Sunverge Energy

Battery_Sunverge_outdoor_02Sunverge is a California-based company that was founded in 2009 and recently announced a partnership with New York utility Con Edison to offer storage to more than 300 households as part of a pilot project.

Its latest release, the Solar Integration System (SIS), is suitable both for installation into existing home solar systems and for packaging with new solar panels. It can automatically isolate from the grid in the event of a loss of grid power then deliver power to the site with no interruption in service or loss in power. Sunverge has a 10-year warranty.

Orison

second2Orison is a startup that aims to be “the Nest of the energy industry,” referring to the programmable, self-learning home automation products. Orison recently took to Kickstarter and raised almost $350,000 to help fund its lightweight, easy-to-install batteries, which you can plug directly into an existing wall outlet. At 2.2 kWh, the basic unit won’t give you a lot of backup power, but it’s somewhat expandable. An app lets users check how much money they’ve saved and see the general usage statistics from the device. A wall unit has customizable LED backlighting, while the tower unit has a Bluetooth speaker and five USB ports. Orison offers a 10-year, 5,000-cycle guarantee, but it remains to be see if or when it will be available.

EcoBlade

08325374-photo-02.jpgSchneider Electric’s EcoBlade is a scalable storage system that hangs on a garage wall, much like the Tesla Powerwall. The EcoBlade includes lithium ion batteries, charge controller, inverter, and energy management software. The 5 kWh EcoBlade is expected to be released in 2016.

DCIM100GOPROG0010154.
June 15, 2016 | Jen Olson

If you are considering adding a solar energy system to your home or business, you’ll want to do your research when considering which installer to choose.

We’ve come up with a list of questions that can help you identify quality companies. When you’re informed, you can invest in your energy future with confidence.

We’ve created a downloadable PDF for you to print and use during your discussions. Below are the questions and our answers.

Q) How many years has your company been installing solar?
A) Ten years come March 2017. We’ve been at this awhile.

Q) What do your warranties cover and for how long?
A) Our Perfect 10 Warranty includes a 10-year Workmanship Warranty, 10-year Free Equipment Replacement Program, and our 10-year Highest Production Guarantee.

Q) What is your guaranteed system production?
A) Our Highest Production Guarantee means your solar system will perform as promised, or we will pay you 110 percent of any missed energy savings and incentive payments.

Q) What is your General and Electrical Contractor License Numbers? Do you subcontract any of the work, and if so, what are their License Numbers?
A) Our sales, design, permitting, accounting, installation, electrical, and customer service are all under one roof. If your installer is subbing out work, who are you going to call if it goes wrong? Here are our license numbers:
WA Electrical: RSOLAS*903JM // WA Contractor: RSOLASC936KB
OR Electrical: C1179 // OR CCB: 207641

Q) How many projects have you installed in the Northwest?
A) By 2017 we will have installed more than 1,000 residential, commercial, community solar, and utility-grade systems in Washington and Oregon. Experience matters when it comes to your home.

Q) How much insurance do you carry?
A) We carry 4x of what’s required: $1 million/occurrence, $2 million aggregate. Ask if there are any current claims against your solar contractor’s insurance that might affect you as one of their customers.

Q) Do you have a list of references that we could speak to who have installed the specific products that you are proposing?
A) Absolutely – do you want them from one block over, or two? Joking aside, we’re pleased to provide local references who will give you an honest appraisal of our work.

Q) What are your SolarReviews.com, Yelp, BBB, Google, and Facebook review scores?
A) SolarReviews.com: 4.93/5. Yelp: 4.5/5. BBB: A+. Google: 5/5. Facebook: 4.3/5. Here’s where you can get the real stuff on solar contractors. Make sure to click “other reviews” at the bottom of Yelp.

Q) Did the contractor visit the property, take measurements, and conduct a solar shading analysis, or was it done remotely over the internet?
A) We always show up before the install. Ever buy jeans on the internet that actually fit? We haven’t. Your house is as unique as your fingerprints, and someone should probably come and see what’s what.

Q) Are you a pre-certified contractor with our utility if they have this program? (PSE, SnoPUD, Seattle City Light, PGE, Pacific Power, EnergyTrust, etc.)
A) Yes, yes, and yes – and it didn’t come about just by filling out a form. Call up your utility, and ask what it’s like working with your solar contractor and if they rate them.

Q) Do you pay your workers fairly, and are you involved in the communities you serve?
A) Absolutely. A&R Solar is in it for the long haul and that starts with treating people incredibly well. We were the first employee-owned solar company in the Northwest (we currently have 11 employee-owners) and are proud to be a B-Corporation, directing us to contribute to the communities we serve. This is a really fun part of our jobs: http://a-rsolar.com/about/in-the-community.

Q) Do you have any certifications or ongoing training that hold you to a higher standard?
A) NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) is solar’s gold standard and each of our departments (design, install, project management, sales, executive) has at least one NABCEP Certified member. NABCEP Certification is the ultimate validation of experience and knowledge in the growing solar industry.

model 3
April 12, 2016 | Jen Olson

Tesla made news again recently for discontinuing one highly-anticipated product and accepting down payments on another.

Powerwall

Tesla announced recently that it has discontinued its much-discussed 10-kWh residential battery and has pulled all references to it from its website and press kit.

A smaller system, called the Daily Powerwall, is still being built, the company said.

In simple terms, the Powerwall stores energy. It is designed to bank excess energy produced from a home’s solar energy system during a sunny day for use at night or to provide backup power if the grid is down. Some industry analysts believe that it could eventually revolutionize how homes and businesses get their energy–instead of being reliant on a utility, they simply could power their own buildings by converting energy from the sun.

However, the lithium-ion battery solution is extremely costly, about 30 percent higher than traditional lead-acid batteries that are used in most backup systems. A&R continues to monitor these developments and will be installing Powerwall systems once they become available.

Model 3

While retooling its battery strategy, Tesla scored big with electric vehicle fans by opening up its yet-to-be-released Model 3.

Within a week, more than 325,000 people paid a $1,000 down payment on the Model 3, which has a $35,000 starting price.

A $7,500 federal tax credit is helping to drive all of those down payments. However, the tax credit is limited to the first 200,000 cars from any manufacturer.

Many EV owners are also solar energy system owners, opting to charge their vehicles through renewable energy. A typical driver would need about 3 kW worth of solar to power 100 percent of the EV’s annual energy needs.

seattle-st-andrews-with-jb-hoover
April 12, 2016 | Jen Olson

A Seattle church that installed solar won an award for its efforts to combat global warming.

Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church received the recognition from Interfaith Power & Light, a national group that encourages religious congregations across the country to address global warming by reducing their carbon footprint.

The church’s system–installed by A&R Solar in 2015–saves six tons a year of carbon dioxide from electricity that isn’t drawn from the electrical grid. In 2015, St. Andrew’s will have reduced or offset approximately 80 percent of its carbon emissions.

The effort is part of a covenant adopted by the National Episcopal church aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from every facility it maintains by a minimum of 50 percent by 2019.

The church also installed an eGauge monitoring system to help track the solar panels’ production and the facilities energy consumption.

All parishioners who install solar with A&R will receive up to a $500 referral bonus, and the church will receive a matching donation.

The church is active in a variety of environmental initiatives, including serving shade grown coffee, growing organic produce, which is used as part of its feeding ministries, and having a robust recycling, on-site composting and waste management system.

Read more about Saint Andrew’s solar panels.