One of Verdical Group’s offices are located in the inspirational Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) in Downtown, Los Angeles. This sustainable business hub is filled with dozens of start-ups, non-profits, and established companies working to create a better world. We were recently fortunate enough to catch up with one of LACI’s major players — Pick My Solar. This blog post covers the interview we conducted with Kyle Cherrick, Head of Business Development at Pick My Solar. Pick My Solar is one of the best solar companies in the county and we are very excited to have had the opportunity to speak with Kyle.
Drew Shula: Thanks for joining me Kyle, can you share a bit more about how and why Pick My Solar was founded?
Kyle Cherrick: Our founders were working in the residential solar sales industry out of a desire to improve the world. Unfortunately, they were exposed to some of the darker sides of the industry including sales compensation structures that gave huge rewards for overcharging customers in addition to strong arm sales techniques and financing products that were not good for the customers.
Together, they agreed that there had to be a better way! The industry needed a more transparent process, a place where consumers could receive independent, objective advice and be guided down the solar buying process by a company whose only interest is in getting the customer the best deal for them. So that’s what we built with Pick My Solar, an online marketplace where homeowners can get many bids to go solar and our solar guides provide 3rd party expertise to make sure homeowners are protected and maximizing the value of their solar power system.
DS: What trends do you see in the solar industry? What are you most excited about?
KC: Well the biggest trend has been the dramatic drop in the cost of a solar power system over the last ten years. Ten years ago the state of California was providing $20,000+ of incentive subsidies to help seed the market. That program ramped down as volume ramped up and now almost all California solar projects are built with no local subsidies.
A high quality residential solar system can be purchased with a low-interest loan and be paid off in 7-12 years at roughly the same cost as a homeowners current utility bill. This results in a transfer of wealth from the utility to the homeowner of $40 – $50,000 over the 20 year life of the system.
This is a dramatic shift in the energy marketplace that puts tremendous power in the hands of the consumer. About 1 million homes in America have gone solar to date, but this shift in power means that in the next four years, another 4 million homes are expected to go solar.
DS: What should every business or homeowner know before going solar?
KC: One thing that we really focus on educating consumers is the major differences, benefits and tradeoffs of various forms of financing. Paying cash has the highest lifetime savings, but not everyone has $20-$30,000 they want to use to buy solar out of pocket. In the past five years, many homeowners have been aggressively sold on solar leases. For most consumers, we don’t believe this is a good financing option for their pocket book.
With a lease, a typical homeowner may save $10-$15,000 in electricity bills over 20 years, but they receive no benefit of ownership which results in an increase in the value of their home equal to every dollar they invested in the solar system, according to multiple studies. And those savings with a lease, while nice are much smaller than with a solar loan product where typical savings is around $40,000 because they are often paid off in 10-12 years and receive free electricity for an additional 10-12 years.
DS: Do you expect the new administration to affect your business at all? Will it increase or decrease the demand for sustainable building?
KC: While the first few days of the Trump administration have contained some concerning actions with regard to environmental protection and support for fossil fuels, we are cautiously optimistic because solar power has received broad bipartisan support. The 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit that solar benefits from was just extended for five years at the end of 2015 and already includes a steady ramp down starting in 2020. Additionally, solar power is a huge driver of job growth in America, something the Trump administration is very focused on maintaining.
So we believe there is a lot to be hopeful for, but we remember that politicians respond most clearly when their constituents voice their opinions loud and directly. It is going to be important for Americans who support solar power to stay involved in the political process in the next four years.
DS: What are some of the easiest or most common steps that a business or homeowner can take when planning to go solar?
KC: The goal at Pick My Solar is to make this process as easy as possible. So when customers visit the Pick My Solar marketplace they receive education, financial projections, a custom system design, and we go out and collect 6-12 bids for their project. We score all those bids on 40 different factors and present the top three bids to the homeowner.
The feedback from our customers has been that this simplification of the go solar process and ability to review multiple bids without fighting off aggressive sales people who may be pushing a product, solution, or financing that is not the best is such a relief.
DS: How does solar typically play into other sustainability or green building projects that you see?
KC: The next generation of homebuyers are actually millennials, the oldest of which are now in their mid-30s. While the current generation of solar consumers were motivated primarily by economics and savings, with millennials there is much more awareness of the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions. These homeowners are already thinking about energy efficient lighting, smart thermostats, ev charging at home, and how to power their home with clean energy.
That’s why we expect the interest in home solar power to skyrocket and many consumers will begin researching their options from the comfort of their couch or bed on a computer, tablet, or phone. Pick My Solar started with solar, but we’ve already expanded to include energy storage and are evaluating additional green offerings as well.
Pick My Solar is an online marketplace where consumers can receive many bids to go solar from highly qualified and vetted solar installers. The Pick My Solar marketplace provides energy education, financial projections, a full solar or energy storage system design, 6-8 bids for every project and a recommendation on the top three proposals. The process can take as little as one hour online and over the phone.