Hey guys, welcome back to episode two of the Community Solar Authority Fastpass podcast. My name is Dakota, one of the managing partners, and I’m also joined by my two business partners, Andrew and Nathaniel. Andy Nath, thanks for hopping back on, and we’re officially live for episode two.
0:00:27 – Andy
Welcome, welcome y’all. We’re excited to be here to talk more about solar.
0:00:34 – Dakota
Yeah, housekeeping notes Nat is currently trying to figure out a sound board, so I’m personally really excited about that, I want to be able to add. I think we’re working on like Wall Street, bells for Deals Closed and a couple other exciting stuff, but purpose of this show is to really talk about our work in Community Solar Authority, our path in the entrepreneurial world and really how we help our end users, which are large consumers of electricity, get access to what we define as simple sustainability. I think that a really good place to start this podcast is maybe talk about the not history of the solar industry in general, but rather our experience in it. And again, andy and I have been working together for over a decade now, and when I personally started in the energy space, everything I heard about solar was always it takes a long time to kind of get into. It’s a really tough industry to understand and for me, I was always turned off by the idea it’s expensive. And again, this is going back 10 years ago. But a lot’s changed over the industry over the last decade, including the fact that there are massive incentives that make it now much easier and more available to utilize solar, including changes in technology that really drive the opportunity to see the nationwide adoption of a more sustainable United States.
And, andy, if you have any input again, kind of thinking back, you know we were doing door-to-door sales 10 years ago. We were selling gas and electric and you know I remember those conversations of people who were just getting into solar and they thought that it was going to be. You know, the grass is greener on the other side and oftentimes it wasn’t. It was. You know they were waiting months for glass to get on the roof and really we were always talking about it from a residential perspective. But do you have any input on that as far as you know that transition and then we can talk about kind of how we got into it. Yeah, and I think months is an understatement. I have heard it could take six to 12 months in some scenarios for you know people to get glass on the roof and actually make that deal payable for the sales agent and also see the whole thing come together from a customer’s perspective. That’s a long time to wait for something that you’re looking for, like you know, that immediate satisfaction, like the rest of the world, on of making that decision.
And the big issue was price. Solar panels were no more near as productive as they are now. I mean, the efficiency aspect for solar panels has just gone through a roof. One, two, the price has probably been cut by at least 30 to 50% in a lot of scenarios for the actual glass to get on the roof. So it’s just made it a lot more economical, which I think made it all boom. Eat it without the incentives, just over a price of the product that’s come down a lot. There’s a lot more competition in the market. But also now you can get something to solve within a month or three months, which makes it quick.
What people want. I mean, especially in this day and age we live in this technology boom. Everybody’s looking for instant gratification and you know, when you’re looking into something like solar, people are looking for it to happen quickly. And that was the number or not the number one obstacle, but probably the most common obstacles I’ve heard of from a sales perspective on solar. But, yeah, that’s my two cents. No, I love it and I can. Yeah, go ahead now.
0:04:02 – Andy
So just to read it. I was just looking at some stats and the efficiency has increased almost 40% in the past 10 years and the price for what of a solar panel has come down 65% and it’s only going farther down, right Well.
0:04:25 – Dakota
I was under shooting that I like the under promise and over deliver. So that’s kind of my motto, kind of right. And you also think about how ugly the panels used to be too. You know, I remember it looked like. There’s memes that you see of solar where it’s like the emoji of how they’re like this big blue, blue panel with the huge white lines through it. It would like a bridge. It looked terrible. And now you know, putting stuff on that looks and resembles a glass roof. Last year, just completely up, yeah, exactly.
And again, like I can think back to 2016, 2017, 2018, the teasing that was solar growing, the industry, we watched more and more people kind of get into it as sales, as sales guys, and I remember not wanting to make the jump, but really what did it for me was, you know, coming into the idea of community solar authority is again, we kind of saw the writing on the wall. The fact was is that prices were coming down, efficiency was going up and sentence were increasing and the availability to become more sustainable was starting to become more and more real at scale. And so you know, andy, I can remember our first couple conversations of, hey, we’re going from energy to community solar. And for us, you know, going straight into rooftop solar was not something that we were doing we didn’t have any plans on doing Again, we watched a lot of people run to the residential space, but once we saw the writing on the walls and we decided to shift and really build the community solar authority brand. You know we made the decision from day one to stick to working in commercial properties. You know, in episode one we talked about how we’re hyper lean and highly leveraged. You know, in a world where we saw every single person run to the residential sales world as far as solar goes, we not only chose to go community solar, which is much different than onsite solar, but we chose to specifically serve municipalities, investors and large consumers of electricity. And so I think about our fast pass today and really how it started, which was in the community solar world.
And if you’re unfamiliar with community solar, the easiest way that we explain it is that community solar is really an opportunity that became available through a state level legislation. Right, so it’s all written in at the state level and really what it’s all about is helping meet renewable energy commitments. So states will come in. They’ll make these lofty goals of hey, we’re going to be 100% renewable in the next year or two, or five, or 10. And so they come out with these lofty goals, but they don’t have any ability to execute on that. And so community solar started, in my opinion, started to become a main driver in how states are able to meet their renewable energy commitments.
Because, again, the reality is not. You’re going to install solar on everyone’s rig, right from shade to cost to availability, thank you. It’s just not going to work. And so the idea of building these larger scale solar farms where members of the community some cases that’s residentially, some cases that’s commercially and some cases that’s large commercial but that opportunity is razor thin and that’s why we chose it, because we wanted to be hyper leveraged. But the opportunity for anybody to join a local solar farm in exchange they get a discount on their electricity bill that is a massive opportunity in my eyes because, again, it’s the lowest barrier to entry when it comes to participating in renewables and taking advantage of sustainable business practices. We’re not talking about installing solar on site. We’re not talking about making you pay to participate. This is a no brainer decision that we started helping commercial properties make five years ago to this day as a simple way for them to plant the seeds of what’s possible. And again, sustainability as far as our core values believe, what we practice, what we preach, sustainability is at the core of everything, because that’s what builds a better foundation and a stronger future. So let’s get into our fast pass and talk about how we make simple sustainability and really why we start with community solar and, andy, I’ll pass it over to you. Yeah, so our fast pass really covers just about every scenario for sustainability from a solar perspective.
Community solar I personally love the product and that’s honestly what made us so prepared and willing to make that jump in renewables, because it allowed us to basically bypass all of the belief issues that were kind of resounding in the solar market to begin with. Whether that was, people didn’t believe in it, people didn’t like the efficiency, people didn’t like the look, people didn’t like the economics. All of that stuff went away and it also truly does back up the whole communities working together to make a huge impact on the planet, which me personally, I find astounding. I think that’s awesome. I think we’re all better when we come together as a community and work towards a common goal, and community solar really, truly does allow people to do that. And basically, by taking 1,000 or 2,000, 3,000 people and combining them on a one solar project and eliminating the shading problems, eliminating everything I just explained, that’s how you make a big impact. Going house to house to house and only being able to do 30% of the homes, which is a made up number, by the way. Well, let’s say it’s 30% of the homes. That’s not as big of an impact that could be made. And solar truly is that low barrier of entry product or community solar. Rather, to get everybody involved and make it so simple that, like, why would you not do it at that point? Right, yeah, no, I love it. And again, our intention from when we started, which, by the way, we do a lot more than that now with our fast pass. So again, we use the same process that creates these predictable results, which is we execute commercial solar for large users of electricity. We run that through the gamut of commercial solar. Now, whether that is on site or battery storage or a PPA, we can do all of that utilizing our same process, but we always try to start with community solar subscriptions because it plants the seeds for what’s possible.
Again, if you’re a large consumer of electricity. You may not necessarily have sustainability as a number one priority for your business, but I bet cost savings are, especially if electricity is your main overhead cost. Whether you’re a manufacturer or a municipality or a school, you are consuming a lot of electricity and you need a way to lower that cost. Well, why not sign a piece of paper which is all community solar is? It’s a paper only transaction that gets you access to a guaranteed lower electricity cost for like 10 years, right, sometimes 20, based on who we’re working with? Yeah, guaranteed, don’t guaranteed. And that is the power of simple sustainability is.
Again, we’re not asking you to make a financial decision as far as an investment cost. We’re not asking you to contemplate if we should have someone come and work on your roof, which arguably is the most important piece of your commercial property, because that’s what protects everything underneath it. This is literally saying would you like to participate in helping clean the energy grid? And in exchange for that, in exchange for you joining a local solar project, we’ll just share some solar incentives that the developers get access to thanks to the taxes and fees that people are paying on their electric bill already. You know we were talking to a subscription manager, a community solar manager of a large community solar company just last week and we were talking about how community solar is really more like an energy efficiency program than anything. It’s funded in the same way, meaning those couple taxes and fees maybe it’s only a couple dollars per month on your utility bill you pay. Those energy efficiency fees and taxes are to be invested into programs like community solar not only community solar, but like community solar and that’s how those incentives get funded. So you’re already paying, even if it’s just a couple bucks, for the idea of these incentives becoming available, and it just so happens that we help connect large consumers of electricity through those available savings for no cost. That’s pretty powerful and again, when you think about that, razor thin.
So maybe let’s talk about what a solar farm looks like. Right, it’s gonna be a field of solar panels across five to 30 acres. That’s the typical size of community solar. Simply put, your community solar subscription takes up a portion of that solar farm. So you’re just in right. If you’re in any busy, any bitty residential house or apartment, you might take up just a couple of solar panels. If you’re a small commercial property, you might take up even more than that. But all of those hundred to thousand people that make a subscription work on a solar farm, meaning a thousand people, join the opportunity for one large consumer of electricity. You might only have one of those per solar farm and so, again, the um. It’s not like energy, where you’re procuring energy and you have unlimited access and you can always buy it.
Community solar is exclusive in the sense that there’s only solar and solar projects online. Our substations and grid is in trouble because the biggest factor to scaling solar right now is getting more of these solar projects online. But the problem is is we need upgrades, the lines need upgrades, the substations need upgrades, and so sure, there’s a lot of solar growth plans, but it comes down to what’s actually going to turn into an actual solar project, right? What’s actually going to be constructed, what’s actually going to be connected to the grid? And so when you think about it like that that’s why, if you’re a municipality investor, large consumer of electricity, your community solar opportunity is truly limited, and we never like to apply pressure to people, but when we put a subscription agreement in front of one of our clients, it’s under the impression that, like you, have a weak decision to review this. Look at the agreement, see that it’s a no-brainer again. For no cost you’re lowering your electric costs, guarantee it. Does that get better than that? And if you can’t make up the decision within a week’s time, then you risk losing that capacity.
Because these large corporations want this all of the time. You’ll see it in almost every single PR article that comes out Walmart, largest subscriber of community solar in New York. Even organizations like SUNY, the school system in New York, is now pledging to. You know they recognize they’re one of the largest consumers of electricity in New York state, so they’re going to look at the sustainability initiatives. Maybe they choose to participate in community solar. You think of you know AT&T’s and you know we help corporate companies all the time and the point is is that they all want these cost-saving tools because they know it’s simple.
And really our conversation with our clients is let us show you how simple it is, let us bridge the gap for you and help you make the easy decision of just lowering your electric costs at the snap of fingers. And not only that, it’s advocating to get you a spot because at the end of the day there’s about 4,650 megawatts of large-scale solar built in, like the state of New York today, which New York would be probably the most solidified market for community solar in the entire United States. They’re really leading the charge of how a program should be set up at a state level. So if you really break that down 7 megawatts per project or 5 megawatts per project there’s really only 600 projects available in New York that are currently built. So that means that 600 companies of large subscribers of electricity that have gotten access to community solar thus far in the entire state of New York. So when you really break that down, it really kind of paints the picture of how exclusive this product could be for a large consumer of electric. If you’re a residential home, it’s going to be very simple for you to find a project you can take part of.
But when it comes to large consumers of electricity worthy guys that really go in the background and find that spot for you to get your company a chance to compete in this particular marketplace. Because, like Dakota had mentioned, there’s companies like I don’t mean to signal anybody out, but it’s the end of the news so ATT and demobile and on depots, like there’s a million of them. Okay, that’s a little bit elaborate, but there’s a lot of them that have made that easy decision to go after it and they’re doubling up a lot of that capacity. So for our clients, let’s say they’re not on the commercial level right, or like the large corporate commercial level, like an ATT. We’re really doing a lot of advocating for our clients to make sure we could chisel out a path forward to get in them access to a tangible solar project so they could take advantage of these same things that everybody’s already kind of paying for anyway.
So that’s really the power of what we’ve been able to do, and I can’t tell you how many times it’s come up. Even just last week we were talking to a major residential, large consumer electric Lots and lots and lots of houses all combined into one building and they’re like, yeah, we’ve been looking into community solar for a year and nobody’s been able to help us. It’s like, well, great, I can help you now and you know we can get you allocated to a solar project from the next 30 days. And that’s the power that we have in a marketplace, because we work with so many developers whereas most companies only work with one. We have a conglomerate of companies that we service from a consulting level to help find clients for them, that we really can find something for anybody. You just have to have the trust in us to be able to take care of your company the same way you’re going to take care of your company, and that’s the power of what we’re able to do for our customers.
On a day to day basis and every week, I feel like we’re blowing minds and I’m really getting people access to something that they were kind of starting to lose faith in, because enough time goes by. You know somebody dangling a carrot in front of your face. You’re going to start to think that it is what you know. You think it is. It’s just a carrot that’s kind of constantly being moved. The goalpost is changing every day and that’s what happens. You know these projects go to people who make that decision to simply participate quickly, because as soon as a solar project is built, it’s built. It goes very, very fast.
0:18:53 – Andy
So, jack, you were saying, I mean we’ve been talking about New York pretty much this whole time. What about other states? Where are they in this roadmap of rolling out community solar? Because not everybody has been opening up their states to community solar.
0:19:15 – Dakota
That’s a great point. Now, yeah, community solar is slowly sweeping across the nation at a state level. The problem is is that not everyone’s replicating what’s already working and some states are trying to reinvent the wheel. I’ll give you an example Arizona just came out with a community solar legislation that is supposed to help the state and for many reasons it’s not going to work because they didn’t set it up right, when really they could have just replicated what’s already working from a state like New York and I will say maybe a state like Illinois is a better comparison to hey, they’re coming online similar renewable energy commitments, similar sustainability goals, similar CDG, which is just community solar legislation coming in, and they’re able to skyrocket their growth because they’re setting it up the right way. And so New York and Illinois are some of the biggest states that we operate in at community solar authority, simply because we know the legislation, with our process, is able to streamline the whole thing and, again, we don’t participate in states.
Another great example is, you know, recently and we can kind of talk about this like towards the edited podcast as far as breaking news we’re exploring entering a new market right for community solar. They just finalized legislation. The problem was they had a pilot program going on to see if the state would accept it. We choose not to participate in pilot programs or things that aren’t necessarily solidified. One, because we believe in protecting our clients and doing what’s best, and two, we want to make sure our systems are basic, the wheels agrees to take our customers through, and that’s why I think we’re able to blow minds every single week, using Andy’s words, because we’re not making this up as we go. We’re using the same system that we have been perfecting since 2017, 2018, and we have been perfecting it the entire way. And I think that’s a good segue because, again, some states there isn’t community solar, but again, using our same process, with the same relationships we have with the community solar developers. Well, guess what? These developers are also building on site solar. They’re also including battery storage as options. We’re also doing roof leases or land leases to build more community solar projects, and this is all coming out of the same fast pass process.
And so again, the product, what we learned after a few years. And I think this was important for us, because if we tried to offer everything all at once from day one, I think we would have lost a lot of the predictable results and systems that we built from just doing community solar. For the first few years we built relationships with the developers that way, we built predictability in our business that way and then from there, once that channel was solidified, we were able to add additional verticals without adding new vendors, without adding new clients. Some of our clients we did community solar with. They’re like, hey, we have net zero plans or we have on site commercial solar plans or we want a battery backup, and so we went from community solar to larger and larger solar projects. But again, sometimes community solar isn’t available. In a state like Texas we’re working with a university right now who wants to do some onsite projects and potentially they have a battery included so that if they needed an emergency shelter they would have something strong enough against the Texas energy grid where they would be able to produce power and not have to worry about an outage. That’s powerful stuff and it just so happens that we have the exact process with the exact developers who can bring those and execute those projects to life, and that’s super powerful for our clients.
But to add a little more to the community solar they said are available because you did hit pretty hard in New York and Illinois, additional states that have legislation available for community solar. I would add Massachusetts. I would add Rhode Island, even though it’s fairly in the infancy stage. I would add the state of Maine, the state of Maryland, virginia, slowly coming online as well. California just adopted a new program, oregon’s in the process. So there are quite a few and a lot of these states tend to be, you know, more of like the the open minded states to renewables in general is probably the best way to say it. They’re leading that charge in a similar way that New York is, but it works. So more seats are starting to adopt the program and set it up.
Not everybody’s going to get it right on the first go, which is really why we don’t participate in those pilot programs, because we want to make sure if we’re putting our name on something, it’s set up and it’s done and you know that there’s predictability and the advice that we’re giving you for that particular demographic in that market so you can take advantage of what’s available. But then expanding from there along with our fast pass, you know that opens up to probably another 20 to 25 states, aside from what I just mentioned, that have some type of solar incentive in place, outside of the federal incentives, to make going solar tangible and worthwhile for any business owner or any residential customer. So that’s the only thing I would add there, before we really segue into the additional fast pass offerings that we offer our clients. Yeah, no, it’s great and you know, I think people can get an idea of how we plan on growing our business. Right, we’re applying the same system and, as the availability and opportunity to utilize renewables slash solar goes nationwide as these states come out with more incentives, we’re just applying what we already know works at scale over and over and over, again and again.
That’s a sustainable business practice at work. You know, andy, you and I had a conversation the other day. It’s not only do we fell quote, unquote sustainability and the idea of utilizing it, but we practice what we preach in our business. Part of the idea of choosing to be bootstrapped and choosing to be hyper lean is not out of necessity. We could go get money, we could go expand our you know, our reach and employee count, etc. But we choose not to as a sustainable business practice because what we’re doing is we’re building systems that maintain and create predictable results without over hiring right, which is just a practice that’s going on all over, right, but then what’s the way out? So they’re happening in the tech world, you know, you know I was just on like the middle of the morning, I was just on people lose their jobs every single week, whether it’s Google or Facebook or all these different organizations that overgrew because they thought that there was going to be endless market cap and eventually those cards crumble and doing right by our people, doing right by the company and, you know, having the smallest book could possible on the market while also performing at an extremely high level, very important to us and pertaining to.
I thought of a pretty cool analogy pertaining to the growth of solar. So community solar is obviously pretty limited right now, right between maybe five to 10 states, let’s call it. It’s like you’re at a theme park and as you’re riding the rides, new rides are opening up and you’re able to just kind of jump in line and jump right into that X-Ride and it’s never ending. It’s a never ending expansion across the US where I think by 10 years from now, we’re going to be able to do this in every single state in the United States, because it’s a process that works. It cleans the energy grid. It gives us a nice abundance of renewable resources while also maintaining the stability of the energy grid to make sure that everybody’s taken care of. We’re doing it in an efficient, environmentally friendly way and there’s a blend that you know needs to happen everywhere.
But I truly believe that this is going to be a massive, massive wave that continues to just keep rolling and rolling and rolling. That’s right, and we’re going to be ready for it and sustain the entire time. You know, I am super proud in the sense that we are bootstrapped. We’ve been doing this for over five years. The reality is, most businesses fail after year one. I think 80% fail after five years. And here we are still going strong, carrying zero debt and really just looking to expand and take care of our people. And again, you know, I do believe in passing that opportunity on because we don’t have W2s. Does that mean we’re extending?
The other side of CSA’s growth is the massive ecosystem that we have built through our relationships, which is just as good as taking care of employees, because this allows us to nurture, through a closed loop, sustainable ecosystem and keep multiple businesses alive. And that just comes back down to our core beliefs is that sustainability should be the bedrock of everything and that entrepreneurship is the ticket to changing the world. You just need to build your entity in the right way, and so, again last week or last episode, we talked about building entities as a force for good, building entities to make a positive impact, and so not only are we doing that with us, but we’re building that around our entire ecosystem of our vendors, relationships, etc. And that’s all I have to say about that. So, as we kind of segue into, you know, really talking about what’s happening this week breaking news that we’ve got going on and some cool stuff that we’ve been working on I think now would be an appropriate time, and again we’d be hitting the bell if it was available, but we officially closed. So last week we finalized our relationship with Lawrence County Housing Authority and getting them subscribed to an Illinois Solar for All project. So just to speak on Illinois Solar for All briefly, illinois Solar for All is a subset of the community solar program in the state of Illinois.
Within the state of Illinois, illinois Solar for All is specific legislation catered towards low income, environmental justice, communities and our participation involved in working with Lawrence County Housing Authority, which has 180 plus units. We work to get them access to the program. They access up to a 50% discount on their electricity, which is over $40,000 a year in savings at this moment, and those savings are to be reinvested into improving the life of the residents in that facility. And so that’s really cool for a number of reasons. It’s our first Illinois Solar for All project. We were able to impact and possibly change the lives of 180 residents within this community. Lawrence County Housing Authority gets access to an amazing buffer against inflation and they’re able to strategically think about how they want to utilize those savings and overall it was a massive win for everybody.
So super excited to announce that and I think on my two hands how many solar for all projects are available in the state of Illinois or have even been built.
So the fact that we were able to take a small housing authority in southern Illinois and advocate to get them access to a program that provides a 50% discount there’s only maybe under 10 of these projects in existence and they’re taking half a point of those projects it’s monumental and it really just goes back to the power of working with us and what we’re able to do in the marketplace and get everybody that access and the fact that it also is catering to those types of communities who really need these savings the most and improve their lives in the community that they live in is just powerful and it really stands behind everything that we believe in, everything that gets us up in the morning to go to work.
You know, we definitely find value in helping anybody, but those ones hit a little close to home. I grew up in one of these types of communities when I was a youngster. So being able to kind of become an adult, be doing well for myself, but go back to that and be able to make that kind of an impact for a kid growing up in that community is just beautiful in it Just makes me feel very grateful for the opportunity that we have to serve our clients.
0:30:53 – Andy
That’s awesome. So just ask a very simple question Is it 50% discount? Is that every single year or is it a sliding scale?
0:31:04 – Dakota
It’s every single year and the beautiful part is it’s a set rate. So as inflation hits electricity costs, it continues to compound and just give them multiple benefits throughout the course of the year Five year agreement, 10 year agreement, 15 year agreement. It just keeps on renewing so they’re able to take advantage of this as long as they want and be guaranteed that spot to impact the lives of their tenants. I think that’s just a perfect place to propose the question, to kind of add this podcast, which is like would you trade and, by the way, that deal took 30 days so would you take 30 days, maybe two hours of your time, $0 to invest, and would you trade that for saving $40,000 a year? Guaranteed, that is the power of community solar. And again, using our community solar fast pass. All we do is just get you to the front of the line the quickest and we take care of the whole thing for you, because again, you can go to try to self enroll into community solar. But back to Annie’s point, using New York as an example if you’re not a major corporation and you might not even have a sustainability team, you’re gonna have to go developer to developer on stuff that’s already on the open market, on stuff that, quite frankly, it’s just not gonna work, and so people have the ability to now just make the simple decision.
We could charge tens of thousands of dollars for what we do. If we charge $10,000 to LCH, they would have paid it because we just made them $40,000 guaranteed in their first year, just year one. So we could charge tens of thousands of dollars for this system, and we know we could. We specifically choose not to because we believe in our values of being an entity as a force for good, and we get paid by the developers anyway. So we’re not trying to double dip and take advantage or do any of that. This is a way for you to get access to a $0 investment, work with us to get predictable, guaranteed results, and you just get to sit back and enjoy a lower electric cost and I think that’s pretty powerful.
That’s right, and you know our work is not done. You know it’s great to have deals like this flow and get them done and make that impact, but we’re thinking 10 years down the line how many of these types of individuals and organizations can we really make an impact with? And it takes everybody to get this type of message out. So please leave a review on our podcast, like and subscribe to hear more of these skill, good stories going on in the market. Later there will be more coming.
Our work is most definitely not done and our goal here is to really see the nationwide adoption of community solar and solar in general, cut costs for every single customer that chooses to work with us guaranteed and provide the simplest solution to sustainability that is available on the marketplace by working directly with us to do all the work for you. So I can’t say it enough, but there’s more coming. Well said, guys. Thank you so much for listening and tuning into episode two. As Andy said, please subscribe to our channel, find us on YouTube, connect with us on LinkedIn. If you have any questions about sustainability, solar, anything that we talked about on the podcast today, feel free to shoot us an email, leave us a comment, visit our website communitysolarauthority.com, and we will see you on the next episode. So LinkedIn as well. Thanks guys, thanks guys.