CLEVELAND, Ohio — Azam Kazmi takes pride in being a savvy businessman. Initially attending Cleveland State University to study Physical Therapy, Azam left before finishing his degree to begin his entrepreneurial career in the tech and wireless industry in 1995.
In the years to follow, he continued to embrace risks. In 2009, when the U.S. was still recovering from economic recession and unemployment rates were soaring, renewable energy was largely viewed as a novelty. “People didn’t know about the product – where to get it or how to use it”, Azam recalled. And yet, in this same year, YellowLite was founded in Cleveland, Ohio.
Azam was confident in this step into the solar industry. Equipped with a background in what he refers to as “the art of entrepreneurship”, he and just one other employee founded YellowLite with the mission of “taking solar energy mainstream”. Just over a decade later, it’s clear the risk was worth the reward.
Goals and Growth
Today, YellowLite continues to fulfill its mission by expanding solar energy’s presence across the Midwest. “We have grown a lot! We are now doing business in 9 states. But more importantly, we have matured as an organization,” Azam explained.
In the beginning, YellowLite was focused on designing, selling, and installing residential solar systems, a strategy that made the company one of the largest residential solar installers in the region. As clean energy grows in prominence and scale, YellowLite strives to grow with it. The company has not only broadened their commercial systems capabilities and portfolio, but is also working to add newer technologies such as battery storage and sophisticated system monitoring.
Stronger Solar Support
Although, as YellowLite strengthens their ability to evolve with the future, Azam notes that Ohio’s support for renewables has not. “Ohio is no longer a leader in their support for renewable energy, he said, “we are seeing much stronger support and incentives for clean energy being provided in states like Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania”.
Although Azam anticipates Ohio’s solar businesses will continue to grow, he explained that any growth is largely due to technology improvement and declining costs. With a lack of government support, “Ohio will just grow at a slower rate than the overall industry and other states”.
Unfortunately, this hurts consumers. Other states “have programs that drive the acquisition of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs)” and, “a number of their utilities are also offering rebates or other incentives,” Azam noted. These programs are a result of local and state government support, and ultimately “lowers the cost of acquiring a solar system in those states, as well as providing our customers a higher return on their investment”.
The Value of Clean Energy Voices
Ensuring customers receive the best possible service for their investment is crucial to YellowLite. While their installations are not always the cheapest, the company emphasizes that value is not defined by price alone. “First and foremost, our concern is to educate”, the YellowLite website read. Beyond top quality materials and professional installation, Azam explained that YellowLite “provides the highest value by providing dedicated project management that keeps our customers informed throughout their implementation”.
Azam described himself as an advocate of social enterprise, “the work we do is centered around the improvement of the community”. It’s one of the reasons YellowLite became a Sponsoring Business Member in Green Energy Ohio and volunteered to be the first company to test the Power with A Purpose program — including GEO memberships in their contracts. Al Frasz, a long-time GEO Board Member and leader in the Ohio renewable energy industry joined YellowLite in 2019 as their Commercial Business Manager.
YellowLite has also worked alongside GEO on many community events including our Growing Local Solar workshops – gatherings aimed at educating local communities on solar development. “We need to continue to educate the community, state and local government officials about the economic and environmental value of clean energy” Azam urged.
Although solar energy is much more “mainstream” than it was in 2009, Azam explained there is still work to be done, “YellowLite is trying to do our part and tell our story about our job growth and economic impact”. But, as Azam expressed, independent advocacy is equally important. “Green Energy Ohio members should know that their voice and support is critical to the success of solar firms like YellowLite”. Together, YellowLite believes we can all play a part in growing the clean energy movement.
By Erin Fisher