CINCINNATI, Ohio – From moderate interest in energy efficiency to fully supportive of the latest renewable technologies, adverse policies such as Ohio’s recently passed House Bill 6 can seem discouraging. Yet, in the face of such regressive policies, many Americans continue to push themselves and others to be more environmentally conscious.
The sentiment of leaving things better than we were given is put into action as people turn off the light when leaving a room or bump their thermostat up by one degree in the summer. However, there are also more significant strides being made by businesses who recognize how detrimental our use of fossil fuels is to future generations.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) installation companies such as TMI Energy Solutions, based out of Cincinnati, Ohio, are integral to this renewable transition. They provide Americans with an alternative to the fossil fuel power provided by most utility companies. Ryan Findley, an energy engineer for TMI, is proud to be part of a company that facilitates the movement to be better for future generations because even growing up he realized, “the importance of trying to leave behind something better than [he] found it.”
A Diversified Background
Originally from Washington, Ryan obtained a BS in Aerospace Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, then joined the United States Air Force as an officer after graduating in 2005. While serving he worked in a variety of positions, many that provided leadership experience, and simultaneously received his MBA from Marylhurst University in 2008.
In 2015, Ryan decided to go back to school for an MS in Renewable and Clean Energy from the University of Dayton, which brought him to Ohio. He wanted to enter the private PV installation field because he thought he could “make a bigger impact, doing more for even national security with energy security and diversity.” Ryan even took political action to protect America’s energy diversity in 2016 when he testified in front of the Ohio Senate, opposing their plan to abolish renewable portfolio standards at a time when the industry was taking off in Ohio.
After graduating, Ryan paired his degrees with his experience with professionals in the solar field to secure a position with TMI Energy Solutions. Knowing that Ohio is not currently a leader in the renewable industry, he chose to stay in the area to encourage this necessary change. Today, he still aims to serve his country by increasing the presence of solar energy in Ohio.
A Holistic Approach
TMI has been a great fit because they share Ryan’s goal of bettering our planet through PV installation and energy efficiency projects. They also have a similar history of not settling on only one way to serve customers.
In 1983, TMI was founded with the goal of saving people money by reducing their energy consumption. They performed LED lighting and chiller retrofits, HVAC system upgrades, and utility bill analysis. TMI also frequently performed electrical services, facility maintenance, and work-order management in an effort to improve clients’ energy efficiency.
Ryan points out that TMI is “thinking about ways to save energy first” because the best “green” energy is that which is never used. The holistic approach to energy efficiency on which TMI was founded has not only saved customers’ money, but is also integral to the concept of working to create a better future for coming generations.
The Number One Solar Installer in Ohio
While TMI continues to perform their energy efficiency and facilities services, particularly LED lighting retrofits, the majority of their projects now involve solar photo-voltaic (PV) installation.
Around 2010, Mark Gillespie, TMI’s President, began involving the company in solar installation in addition to energy efficiency projects. He won a handful of large solar bids and gradually increased TMI’s solar expertise. Today, the majority of their work is PV installation. Adding renewable power to their company’s services has not only allowed the business to grow, but increases the benefits they are providing to everyone as they contribute to protecting our planet.
The company’s biggest portion of solar projects comes from large utilities that are putting down several acres of panels. They also do a fair amount of roof mounted systems for commercial businesses and school districts.
Developers typically come to TMI with a customer who is sold on a certain idea to see if the company can put the best price tag together as an electrical subcontractor. TMI also partners with other companies that sell solar as part of their packages but subcontract out for the purchasing and installation. In addition to this subcontracting role, TMI does develop some projects, both large and small, on their own for individual clients.
Through their various projects, TMI has installed over 35MW of solar PV over the years, replacing the power that used to be generated from burning fossil fuels. Having replaced this much carbon-emitting power, TMI is taking massive steps towards leaving Ohio and the planet better than they found it – by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere.
In addition to TMI’s large projects for developers, they have also done installations of various sizes for schools and churches.
However, they have found that one deterrent to installing solar for many nonprofits is that they do not receive the same monetary incentives as private, for-profit businesses. For example, Ryan points out that churches are not eligible for the 30% solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that helps private customers reduce the cost of a system.
To counteract this, TMI promotes a special way of funding where a third party takes ownership of the arrays, so that they can take advantage of the ITC, and then shares the costs and savings with the nonprofit. This helps nonprofits have solar installed even without the automatic access to funding or tax incentives.
Another client that often does not have easy access to funding is public school districts, which TMI has worked with frequently over the years. They have assisted schools in improving maintenance and facility services, organizing work order systems, “to get a better hold of their scheduling for heating and cooling,” installing PV, and upgrading lighting over summer breaks.
TMI assists clients in various economic sectors as more people are looking to make a cost-effective decision that also has positive environmental impacts.
What began as the initials of the company founders has become a motto for TMI Energy Solutions and its employees. They believe that one can never have Too Much Information regarding energy efficiency and production. Their thought process is that the “least expensive green energy is the energy you don’t use.”
Ryan says that TMI provides its customers with a “tailored energy solution, not just one size fits all kind of projects.” The company finds the right sized solution for what is needed, instead of just installing large quantities of LED lights or solar panels.
For customers that are only looking for PV installation, TMI’s reputation “for doing jobs well, being easy to work with, and [being] upfront and honest about things” has continued to bring them business. Large developers looking for sizable mounted solar arrays or expertise on electrical work continue to reach out to TMI or recommend them to new developers because they have “shown high quality standard of work.”
Whether clients are attracted to TMI’s comprehensive approach to energy use, including efficiency and facility improvements, or their successful record for completing large projects, business has steadily grown over the years. This has allowed TMI to assist an increasing number of people looking for economic return as well as those who have environmental motives.
A Passionate Energy Engineer
As TMI has grown in the solar industry, Ryan’s responsibility within the company has also increased. He wears several hats, from analyzing utility bills to project design work to troubleshooting during closeout.
Ryan describes his days as all looking “a little bit different, with some days in the office and some in the field.” His tasks may differ widely, but they are all focused on benefiting customers through accurate estimates of PV needed and precise purchasing logistics.
This accuracy ensures that nothing is wasted, everything has a purpose, protecting what we have for future generations. This passion for sustainability is something that Ryan and TMI hope to instill in the company’s current and future employees. Therefore, another one of Ryan’s responsibilities is workforce development to “find employees that would be more ‘pumped about solar.’”
TMI wants to hire “the right people who are also on board with solar, not just doing this for a job but doing this because they want to be a part of making the world a more sustainable place.” Ryan also hosted a training event with newer employees to explain the basics of solar and the “why of it” (climate change, greenhouse gases, the technology of PV) in an effort to turn them into solar ambassadors.
Ryan has chosen to be a private PV energy engineer instead of being active duty military because he feels that he can serve his country even more in this field and he hopes to find and develop employees with a similar focus on making the world better.
TMI’s Positive Outlook
The “solar-coaster” can mean that installers like TMI see a fluctuation in business as prices vary, customers back out due to timing, demand changes, and legal requirements restrict subcontractors. However, Ryan is optimistic that with a little bit of customer recruiting, business can continue to grow for TMI.
Ryan chose to transition to Air Force Reserves and begin private PV installation because he wants his work to contribute to leaving things in the energy industry better than he found them.
He has enjoyed being at TMI because their goal is to be “more of a holistic energy solution company as opposed to just pumping lots of PV out there.” This intention is integral to creating a better future for the planet as it encourages a transition away from fossil fuels and a reduction in overall consumption.
Environmentalists believe it is our responsibility to leave the planet better than we have received it, and companies like TMI Energy Solutions and people like Ryan Findley have the passion and experience to help Americans turn this belief into reality, despite unfavorable political climates.
By: Allison South