In the spring of 2017, Dave Madrid and Alex, and Clint Williams founded Solar Energy Partners to provide clean, cost-effective energy to residents of the United States. Starting in the sun-soaked state of California, the trio built up Solar Energy Partners and quickly began spreading to other areas around the country.
At the moment, just 2.3% of the country uses solar power. Solar Energy Partners is out to change this figure and aims to show Americans just how much money can be saved in electricity bills by converting to solar. Saving money is just the in-road to getting people to convert to solar, however. What starts as a way to save money turns into a benefit to the rest of the world as renewable energy is used.
Despite some setbacks under the Trump administration, including tariffs placed on solar panel imports and tariffs believed to have cut more than 62,000 jobs and a loss of more than $20 billion in private investments, the future looks bright for Solar Energy Partners.
What are the ways that you have seen growth in solar since launching three years ago? What’s your outlook for the industry in the coming years?
Brian Hutchings: Solar, three to five years ago, was mostly used by early adopters who thought the technology was cool and could simply save some money along the way. It was really only present and adopted in a few select states, so not everyone had the opportunity to dive in. Today, residential solar has spread to a penetration of 3% of all homes, and the industry is growing immensely, with no signs of slowing down.
In the near future, we’re going to see more solar adoption than ever before, and we’re geared to work on a higher volume of projects than we’ve done in the past. Having been in the business for some time, I can confidently say we’re busier now than we ever have been. I look at it as a snowball effect. Solar is the solution to a major problem that most people don’t even know is hindering their lives. This is a much better, more cost-effective way to generate power, and that’s huge. It really makes a tremendous difference for customers. As people begin to realize how much they’re currently paying, and that it doesn’t have to be that way, they start to think “wow, where have you been all my life!?”. From a company perspective, to say we’re excited would be an understatement. We plan to go into each and every state that economically makes sense for homeowners, and change their lives for the better.
What sets Solar Energy Partners apart from other solar companies? What do customers say about the entire process?
Todd Jensen: The products and partnerships we have are at the next level, but I would say it’s the culture and leadership that set us apart.. Our leadership is specifically built off of the wealth of knowledge that the partners and managers have amassed over the course of their careers. We’ve built an amazing training platform based on that experience that gives new solar reps an opportunity to “plug in and play”, empowering them with an unhindered ability to find success in the solar industry.
Customers say that we focus on educating them on how solar works and what the options are without having an agenda or pushing them towards a specific program or company. They really appreciate that we make an effort to walk them through this. We take a different approach from other solar providers as we take time to learn about their wants or needs; helping them choose the program or product that best suits their unique situation, and they come out of this having built a real connection with the person and the company they’re working with. It’s so different from the “sales forward” approach a lot of other companies take, which I definitely understand, but we’re trying to do more than just “sell”, we want to change the world.
Like many businesses around the globe, Solar Energy Partners had to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic to stay relevant — and in businesses. Thanks to a customer-focused experience and personalized solutions, the company continued to thrive during the health crisis. The adaptations the company made for the pandemic has left it in a stronger position now than it was before COVID-19 hit.
What are some of the challenges your company encountered during the pandemic, and how did you overcome them?
Clint Williams: When the pandemic hit, a lot of things changed quickly. We weren’t sure how long this was going to last, but we knew we needed to adapt to what was happening. We switched our strategy to selling virtually until it was safe enough to continue socially distanced in-person approaches and presentations. We also encouraged our reps to dive into their personal networks and reach out to referrals versus going direct-to-home. It wasn’t long before we saw a positive response. Many of the customers we reached out to really appreciated us looking out for everyone’s safety.
I know Todd touched on this a moment ago. We’ve all seen a lot of changes over the last seven years in the solar industry. One thing that hasn’t changed is the customer’s desire for a personalized experience and solution. I think the way we adapted our business over the course of the pandemic will help us continue to provide a personalized and safe experience to a wider range of people than we ever would have before COVID-19.
In 2020, the United States government allowed companies to use the Paycheck Protection Plan, a loan program established to help businesses weather the storm of COVID-19. Unlike other businesses, Solar Energy Partners chose not to take a PPP loan. Several factors combined leading the company to make the decision as solar power becomes even more important in the lives of customers.
Your company chose not to take PPP (Paycheck Protection Plan) assistance. What led you to that decision, and how did it turn out?
Dave Madrid: For us, it’s all about the needs of society and doing the right thing. We decided to let other businesses that truly needed the PPP get that help. We are extremely grateful that we’ve been operating an essential business that’s been extremely lucrative, and because it’s actually life-changing, it remains in demand. There can be no question at this point that solar is, without a doubt, a commodity. Since we started, we’ve had over 2,000 accounts and expect to reach at least 5,000 by the end of 2021. Our sales force has been steadily growing. As crazy as the last year was for us, we’re expecting to continue our growth trajectory.
Solar Energy Partners was able to add about 500 sales representatives across the country in the worst economic backdrop since the Great Depression. How was that even possible?
Dave Madrid: Electricity is a necessity in our society. We felt that there was an opportunity in the midst of the economic downturn, and those that felt the need to make a change to a different career really resonated with what we were doing. We restructured our training program to bring on those with little to no sales experience with a focus on utilizing the strengths and talents of individuals from other industries; refocusing that in the solar arena. It’s no secret there were a lot of people that fell on hard times because of the pandemic, it’s an incredible feeling to have brought on such a diverse team and expanded their respective horizons.
The potential for growth in solar power is incredible and in spite of the terrible financial situation created by COVID-19, Solar Energy Partners was able to grow its workforce. Energy is a necessity in the modern world and the company has been able to grow exponentially due to the need for renewable, green, cost-effective energy. Last year saw several success stories for Solar Energy Partners as multiple reps joined from other industries. Their willingness to learn has led to personal and business growth going into what could be the company’s biggest year ever.
What are some interesting stories of employees who were laid off in other industries but found success with your firm?
Brad Holm: We have a lot of really interesting people on our team that made the transition over to the solar industry for various reasons. One of our reps that has done phenomenally well in this business switched from a career as a police officer with no sales experience to speak of. He came from a career in public service and saw the value that we could bring to customers as well as his own family, dove in, and hasn’t looked back. Another rep in one of our largest markets came from the car business, where he noticed the absolutely massive potential for growth in the solar market. After taking some time to learn the ropes, he quit his other job and jumped in full force- he’s been working with us for just under a year, and has been doing this full time for two months; his tenacity has led him to become one of our top performers. In fact, since joining our force, he’s worked his way up to leadership and has a bright future with the company. Of course, we’ve had a number of representatives that made segues from entertainment and advertising, as well- because entertainment has largely been shut down since the pandemic hit, this was a great new horizon for them. It’s been interesting- those reps that have some experience with marketing generally get creative with the way they approach the business, and have an “outside the box” mindset, many of them have found great success within the organization.
Once most new hires notice that the potential for building success here is real and tangible, it’s clear that they’ve stumbled upon one of the most incredible opportunities they’ve ever seen. It’s not much different from when I jumped in and made my way over to the solar arena. I had to see the value, and once I started that pretty much couldn’t be ignored. My ultimate goal is to transpire the knowledge and experience that I gained in this field. I want to help every one of our reps find that “better life” that they’ve been seeking, and it’s all possible here, with the right work ethic. That being said, there’s something great to say about every person in our organization- there’s so much personality here, it’s unreal. There’s not a day that I wake up where I’m not eager to jump in and work with our people.
Solar Energy Partners has big plans for the next decade. Energy from the sun can power the world and change the lives of millions of people from the richest nations to the poorest countries. The development of solar energy courtesy of Solar Energy Partners will have a lasting, positive effect on people around the globe.
Can you tell us about your passion for travel, and for issues that affect other nations around the world?
Alex Williams: It all started when I was 17. I traveled to Costa Rica, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, and Panama, and saw what life was like in those places. I discovered a remarkable change in pace that was difficult to describe, but easily felt when one steps outside the United States. I found that there were people all over the world living far different lives than I ever imagined. The beauty of each of those places was astounding, but the lack of some of the basic necessities was hard to miss. I’ve traveled across five of the seven continents now, and I’ve realized how the access to reliable power, clean water, and sanitary infrastructure are not the foregone conclusion that we might think they are, living in the United States. Traveling has made me realize that by harnessing the everlasting power of the sun, we can provide the ultimate resource to solve these issues, universally.
One of the major driving passions of the 2020s for SEP and myself personally is to begin to fund and expand environmentally disruptive ideas in the realm of solar desalination plants (much like GivePower), restoration of the Amazon rainforest through solar adoption, and solar farms that provide renewable, green sources for sustainable farming. Through projects like these we can take the dividends to help people reduce their carbon footprint and save tremendous amounts of money, rather than funding their respective utility’s padded pockets, which we can then use to fund world shaping projects like these. Our dream at SEP is a worldwide solar future that will eventually approach the nearly 200 countries on Earth.
When thinking about the motivation for starting a solar company, what advice do you have to entrepreneurs as it relates to conceiving and executing a business idea?
Alex Williams: Growing up, there was an adage in the construction industry, “Measure twice and cut once”. I can tell you from my personal experience in the entrepreneurial field, it’s more like “Cut three or four times, and then worry about measuring”. I’ve always found that execution is much more important than conceptualization- anyone can come up with an idea; it’s those that can get the idea done that are forever remembered. I look at it like this: actions always speak louder than words; more so in entrepreneurship than any other realm I’ve seen. The most effective thing one can do to make a dream become reality is to work more hours at it, and strive to be the best at what you dare to become.
The future of solar power is incredibly bright. Before long, solar power may be the world’s No. 1 source of energy to power cars, homes, and everything else in our daily lives. The solar power industry in the United States alone is valued at over tens of billions of dollars. Still, it is claimed that just 2% of the entire world is run on solar energy. The growth that is possible is immense as is the revenue that Solar Energy Partners and investors can make over the next decade.
Solar Energy Partners is thriving, which cannot be said by too many companies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, with a strong product and unmatched customer service, it is easy to see just why Solar Energy Partners is setting the standard in solar.
Based in Turlock, California, Solar Energy Partners (SEP) was founded by Alex Williams, Clint Williams, Dave Madrid, Brad Holm, Todd Jensen, and Brian Hutchings. With its Founders/Partners bringing more than two decades of experience across the solar industry, SEPs mission is to bring clean energy, abundant savings, and peace of mind through a simple, comprehensive process to every homeowner across the United States. For more information, please visit: www.solarenergy.partners
Journalist and author. Contributor