Doing What You Love: The OH Solar Story

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Corbin Holland has long understood the role energy plays in quality of life. Growing up, Corbin was acutely aware of the importance of energy independence. Spending each summer with his Navy-veteran Grandfather, he learned that most wars break out over a lack of resources.  So, when Corbin was tasked with exploring an energy resource while earning his B.A in Economics from Millersville University in Pennsylvania, renewable resources were the obvious choice.  

While his interest in renewables and their potential to improve lives continued to grow, it wasn’t until he was without electricity that he decided he wanted to dedicate his career to developing renewable resources. “I’ll never forget – there was an ice storm that took out my electricity for a week.” While he was without power, “I realized that only one company could deliver my electricity and that product was very essential to all our lives. I wanted people to have the best quality of life and one way that I might be able to help with that was to learn more about the electrical grid.”

Chasing the Spark

In 2014, Corbin began classes at Columbus State Community College towards a degree in electro-mechanical engineering. With only one semester until graduation, he was offered a job in his home state with SolarCity – a company chaired by one of his icons, Elon Musk. However, his fascination with the future of his field drove him to stay in the Buckeye State to finish out his degree. Determined, Corbin obtained an associate degree in electro-mechanical engineering in only 16 months.

Today he recalls his decision to stay at Columbus State as fundamental to his success, “Without my education there and my determination I wouldn’t be where I am now.” When he went on to accept a position at SolarCity the following year, it was his education at Columbus State that gave him an upper hand. Within 6 months, he had already received a promotion to Field Energy Consultant. He was on track to his dream job, handling solar projects from start to finish, “I went from reading about these things to living them, I fell in love with it”.

Seeking out Solar

Following the loss of his brother in 2017, Corbin moved back to Columbus and enrolled at The Ohio State University for electrical engineering with a concentration in solar photovoltaics. But to Corbin, the streets of Columbus were a stark contrast to his time in Philadelphia. “I never saw solar panels on houses!” Corbin said. “I kept asking myself, why aren’t there solar panels out here yet?”

He had heard Ohio was one of “the cloudiest places on Earth.” but after doing some research, he quickly discovered that the average hours of sunlight in Columbus hardly differed from the average in Philadelphia. Wondering why Ohioans weren’t taking greater advantage of solar energy, Corbin attended Green Energy Ohio’s “Meet Learn and Share” event at Land-Grant Brewing Company in Columbus. It was there that he had the opportunity to speak with homeowners who had invested in residential solar installations, electric vehicle owners, and investors in community solar co-ops. “I acquired a lot of new information, it was a great experience for me,” he noted. The discussions left him thinking about the future of the industry.

Rising with the Sun

Following the phase-out of existing incentives for the solar industry, Ohio is behind the national curve. Corbin saw an opportunity to accelerate its growth, not only to mitigate climate change, but to give homeowners the ability to generate their own electricity. “I didn’t want to sit around and watch others do this”, he said, “because I knew I could do it the right way.

In 2018, Corbin left Ohio State to found his own solar installation company, OH Solar. While officially founded in 2018, OH Solar wasn’t open for business until the following year. Committed to producing and installing the best products available, he took extra time ensuring each facet of his business was up to his standards. “I want to treat every single house like its mine,” he said, “and to do that, I needed to be the best.”

To meet the criteria he set for himself, Corbin sought out Columbus State instructor JD White for guidance. Corbin relied heavily on the education he received from Columbus State, stating, “it was critical in my startup phase. Without it, I don’t know if I would have been able to do this.”

Authenticity in Action

OH Solar continues to grow organically. If you haven’t heard of them yet, it’s likely because Corbin chooses not to advertise right now. Instead, he prefers to meet people face to face, at farmer’s markets and the occasional trade show. This way, he says, is a more authentic way to connect with the customer. What his customers like about this approach? They don’t have to pay for his advertising.

There are a lot of great companies out there, and he’s happy to be among them, but his focus isn’t on competing. Instead, Corbin believes, “Staying true to my values is way more important – being the change that I want to see in the world.” Expanding the marketplace for people to find solar is what’s important to him.

Service with a Smile

While the road that led him to OH Solar was a long one, he has no regrets. “I have unwavering love and dedication for what I’m doing. That’s why I had no second thoughts about taking the risk to start OH Solar.” His passion for solar energy shines through his projects, and oftentimes, right on his face. “No matter how hard things get, you always have to smile,” he laughs.

With the determination and dedication his family instilled in him, Corbin feels OH Solar is well equipped to handle the changing solar market in Ohio. “When I was growing up, I was taught to leave things better than I found them. Through starting my company, If I leave this industry better than I found it, I’ll know I did the right thing.”

By Erin Fisher