MIAMISBURG, Ohio — Just over a decade ago, a small team of engineers founded Solar Power and Light. With backgrounds ranging from electrical engineering to metallurgy, founders Neil Chaudhry and Brent Boyd were confident in the technology and process behind solar energy.
Their first order of business? Installing a 72.8kW solar system on their own roof. “We knew that the technology worked,” Brent continued, but it was important at the onset, “to prove to ourselves that the economics worked too.”
With 325 solar panels “powering everything from computers to HVAC” at their headquarters, SP&L set out to prove that all types of organizations and facilities could benefit from the environmental and economic advantages of solar energy.
A Panel for Every Roof
They believed so strongly in the advantages of solar power that they invested their own capital in their first 10 projects across Ohio. “We did a system for a church, for a city, for a municipal wastewater treatment center, for a rural village, for a foundry… and not only did we develop, design, build, and maintain these installations, we also own them,” Neil remarked.
SP&L installed, owns, and operates these systems for their host site customers and investors under a contract arrangement called Power Purchase Agreements (PPA). “We were one of the first in Ohio to do these systems with no capital cost to the host organization.”
By managing projects from development to installation to operation, SP&L developed a strategy that Neil says is fundamental to their success. “We’ve truly streamlined the way solar gets done.” SP&L combines efficient solutions with innovative technology to create enduring value for every installation.
The Power of Partnership
As they expanded, they’ve developed partnerships with experts and investors to further streamline the installation process — an approach they call Integrated Development Teaming™ or IDT. Like SP&L, their partners are dedicated to innovation and efficiency. “Our IDT partners have been hand-picked with a particular focus on Ohio-based companies and then a few that allow us to scale on a national basis,” Neil said.
Through these partnerships, SP&L has been able to focus more largely on the development aspect of solar projects, including engineering, procurement, and construction. With numerous technical phases and over 30 documents required to be processed from a project’s start to finish, this diversification significantly reduces overall project time.
These more efficient project timelines drive down costs and increase energy savings. The savings are then passed down to the customer. “Everything we do is designed to help our customers take charge of their future by cutting costs, reducing risk, and meeting sustainability goals within their electric energy spend,” the SP&L website reads.
SP&L STEM Explorers
Some of their most notable partnerships include Tesla and C2 Energy Capital. Last summer, SP&L worked with C2 Energy Capital to complete a 1-MW solar project for The Otsego Local School District. “With these partnerships, we have done a lot of K-12 schools and campuses,” Neil said. SP&L works closely with school districts to not only ensure optimal cost savings but also works to integrate educational aspects for use in the schools’ curriculum.
“We developed a STEM education platform that ties the mechanical, electrical, environmental science, and energy components of solar to classroom studies,” Neil explained. Aptly named, the STEM Explorers program has grown from an integrative curriculum to include hands-on lessons, after-school programs and lectures, and a potential pathway for higher education, internships, and scholarship opportunities.
“I am also excited to say that we’ve recently hired our first high school juniors to assist SP&L in building a 600 kW system at their school, taking classroom learning into experiential hands-on learning,” Neil exclaimed, “another milestone for our STEM platform”.
New to the Neighborhood
To meet growing demand, SP&L has also branched out to residential solar installations over the past three years. “Tax incentives that were put in place several years ago did their job and brought solar costs down to a level so that the average person could also take advantage of solar,” Director of Business Development Greg Akers explained.
The step into residential installations was a natural one. “As large-scale developers, our pool of resources and buying power is strong,” Greg explained. SP&L was able to utilize their talented staff and partners to create a distinguished residential solar program.
For most residential customers, the decision to invest in solar is an economic one. But SP&L holds a soft spot for those who appreciate the environmental impact of switching to clean energy. “I love when customers tell me, ‘It’s just the right thing to do!'” Neil revealed.
Whether entrusted with a small residential installation or a large, multi-acre project, SP&L defines success the same way. “We don’t measure projects by the revenue we stand to gain, but by the satisfaction the client feels after installation,” Greg concluded, “and when the client starts recommending us to others, we consider that job a total success!”
Exciting Times Ahead
From Power Purchase Agreements to their proprietary approach to partnering, SP&L stands out among other solar installers. Continuously driven by innovation, SP&L has taken their understanding of solar energy systems and optimized the process for maximum value to the customer. “Our 10-year history has allowed us to master all aspects of the solar business from finance, to development to construction and owner operations,” Brent explained.
Looking forward, SP&L will continue to grow and evolve as technology and the market continues to change. For example, the Ohio Power Siting Board’s recent approval of several utility-scale solar projects throughout the state is likely to raise the profile of the entire solar industry in Ohio. “We look forward to partnering and continuing to scale our business and grow rapidly as the industry continues to grow in Ohio, in the US, and worldwide,” Neil concludes, “We see very exciting times ahead.”
By Erin Fisher