By Roy L Hales
Originally published on The ECOreport
The ECOreport looks at America’s most successful privately owned roofing and solar company: PetersenDean illustrates residential solar’s explosive growth
PetersenDean’s business grew 400% last year. They expect to double their total number of installations next year. Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt LLC selected PetersenDean to join their Platinum Preferred Contractor Network of top tier roofing professionals. As a result of their soon to be announced partnership with JLM Energy, PetersenDean’s customers will be offering their customers independence from the grid through the lithium iron phosphate Energizr 100 battery system. PetersenDean illustrates residential solar’s explosive growth.
PetersenDean Illustrates Residential Solar’s Explosive Growth
They started as a roofing company, in 1984 . Now PetersenDean puts on more than 20,000 roofs a year, or more, often with solar panels. They have expanded from their base in California into Arizona, Florida, Nevada, and Texas.
“What people like about us is our longevity. If you are going to drill holes in someone’s roof, you want a roofing expert to do that. So when we move into a new state, we’re moving in with the expertise that puts customer’s concerns at ease. If you are going to drill holes in someone’s roof, you want a roofing expert to do that. Now that the recession is over we are putting on more roofs than we ever have before and, with the growth of our solar business, we’ve grown 400% (last year),” said Erin Clark, President of PetersenDean.1
He added, “We do zero outbound customer reach. Every customer called us, or engaged with us through an email or phone call. We don’t “mug you” at a big box store, or go door to door. We runs ads that talk about a clear understandable message that resonates with customers. PetersenDean is a family owned business. People like that. People want a 33-year-old roofing company who also know solar, who buys American-made-products and has been around longer than warranty.”
Those last two points echo events that started in 2010. Like many other solar installers, PetersenDean was buying foreign modules that had been dumped onto the market at lower than domestic prices. This cost them $2 million, after thousands of the panels caught fire and the Chinese supplier went into bankruptcy instead of honouring their warranty.
“Ever since that point Jim Petersen vowed to only buy high quality American products,” said Clark.
That was when they turned to SolarWorld.
“They don’t have failures. They don’t have recall issues. SolarWorld is, hands down, the best manufacturer on the planet earth. The team over there couldn’t be better to work with. I’ve toured that (Hillsborough) factory six times and learned something new every single time,” said Clark.
Throughout much of America, solar plus energy storage “is going to kill the traditional utility company.”
It does not need all the expensive infrastructure.
“To get (power lines) into these housing developments, you need water. So you have to tap into the main city water line somewhere. The next development may be just out on the street, or maybe you are trenching for half a mile adding all these water lines. Same with the power. Now you have to drop in all these main lines down the side of the street. Homeowners are paying millions just to get this infrastructure built so you can actually start building homes,” said Clark.
“What if you didn’t need that? Forget tying into the main grid. Don’t even do it. If you’re a home builder, just install homes with solar and battery.”
Clark sees a day where large numbers of homeowners do not even have a relationship to the utility because they are not connected to the grid.
“If I were a utility company, I would jump on board and try to find ways to partner with solar or battery companies. Or you are going to be the ‘land line’ of the phone industry,” he explaine
However this is not “the answer” for all of America’s energy needs. It is a resource for many people in many locations to take control of their utility bills and save money. But there will still be room for alternative solutions like wind, natural gas and hydro-electric.
As regards solar incentives and rebates, Clark says:
“The industry does not need those rebates. It actually creates a lot of challenge in the market. When you have a rebate that goes up and down or expires and then is refunded, it creates a lot of turmoil in the industry. Since the rebates are gone in California, it is a nice steady environment to operate in. Rebates helped spur the industry and get it off the ground, but we are at cruising altitude now. The solar tax credit is still very beneficial, but in five years costs will come down and solar can stand on its’ own two legs,” said Clark.
“Utility prices outside of California are anywhere from 13 to 19 cents per kilowatt hour. Solar typically comes in under 10 cents.”
Despite this, Clark does not expect PetersenDean’s sales to grow 400% this year.
“That percentage growth is very difficult to maintain. You can grow from a million to two million when you are a small company and that is 100% growth. You can grow from a million to four million in a year and a lot of our offices see that type of growth. But at the level we are now, we’d be a multi-billion dollar company if we grew 400% next year. We don’t see any slowness in the demand.”
Top Photo Credit: PetersenDean is committed to using American-made products and works with companies like Georgia-based Suniva
- Roy L Hales Interview with Erin Clark, President of PetersenDean ↩