Brighton-based renewable energy firm The Green Panel is growing with new showrooms.
It’s a first for the company to have brick-and-mortar stores, where customers can view solar panel arrays, backup power storage batteries and electric vehicle charging stations before placing orders.
Owner Adam Harris said he’s seen the industry grow since he founded the solar and renewable energy installation firm in 2007 and rapid change continues.
“Our industry is still in its infancy stage, even though we’ve seen huge growth in 15 years,” Harris said. “Now, it’s coming to realization.”
The firm operated for years as most solar panel installation companies typically have, through on-site consultations with commercial, industrial and public-sector clients, as well as in-home consultations with residential customers.
Earlier this month, the firm opened a showroom at 8273 Grand River Ave.,
Suite #160 in Brighton. It is their second.
They opened their first showroom last year at 325 84th St SW, Suite #204 in Byron Center near Grand Rapids.
Harris said there are more residential customers — homeowners looking to make the switch of solar energy — then when he started and many want to see the technology before purchasing it.
“People want to be able to touch, feel and see the products,” Harris said. “When we go into homes, we can’t bring enough samples,” partially due to the size of the equipment, he added.
He said residential sales have grown to about 60% of their business, whereas the bulk of their customers in the company’s early years were commercial clients, including corporations, schools, and municipalities.
He said the firm has benefited from a boom in the demand for home improvements during the pandemic.
“COVID came along and our business grew more, because people were home more,” he said.
He said utility rate increases in the last couple years also drove more customers toward renewable energy.
“People starting getting higher utility bills, from running air, using the TV and computers.”
Making people comfortable with investing thousands in upfront costs — customers have spent anywhere from $10,000 to $200,000 — takes a lot of education, he said.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, it costs about $20,000 to install an average-sized residential system.
Harris said another reason they opened showrooms was some customers have become more hesitant to let salespeople into their homes during the pandemic.
They plan to also use the Brighton showroom to host events, including lunch-and-learn style events, on renewable energy.
In the beginning, Harris said, “We started by going after Fortune 500 companies, Dow Corning. We did Michigan State University, Wayne State, K-12 schools, and then cities were getting cash to reduce carbon emissions.”
He said they are currently preparing a bid for Brighton Area Schools to install roof top solar arrays on five local schools.
In the beginning, the firm was only in the business of solar panels.
The firm expanded to sell backup power storage batteries and electric vehicle charging stations, as those technologies emerged.
They sell and install backup batteries, made by companies such as Tesla and Panasonic, which can store excess power generated by solar panels.
“If the power goes out, with energy storage, your battery becomes active and provides power to the whole house,” said Eric Roberts, the firm’s technical and sales manager, said.
“Before, it would go back to the grid,” Roberts said.
They also sell vehicle charging stations made by Tesla, Charge Point and Metra.
When Harris founded the firm, there were no tax incentives to install renewable energy, and it was mostly large corporations in the market for solar.
He said a federal tax credit for investments in solar energy set to expire in 2024 should be extended.
In Michigan, the Solar Investment Tax Credit currently allows a credit of 26% of the cost of solar panels. The credit will be reduced to 22% in 2023.
Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Eberbach at firstname.lastname@example.org.