A-C Solar in the News

Solar Power World Podcast

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The only way to survive multiple decades of business is to evolve with the times. Seventy-year-old A-C Electric was approached in the early 2000s to assist contractors on solar projects in California’s Central Valley. Ten years later, its spinoff A-C Solar functions as its own EPC with a steady stream of projects out of its Bakersfield, Visalia and Fresno divisions.

“Getting that early start has been very helpful,” said Jeff Petrini, energy manager. “It has given us the ability to grow along with the technology.”

A-C installs all types of projects but primarily focuses on the commercial, industrial and non-profit segments. The Central Valley is a hub for agriculture and manufacturing, so there is an abundance of businesses that benefit from solar. A-C considers itself a local company and attributes its success to building relationships with the community and its customers.

“It’s important to us to give the best effort that we can because it’s more than just a business relationship. All of our relationships extend outside of that into the community,” said Katie Van Dyke, sales and marketing manager. “That has a really profound effect on the way we approach our market.”

A-C is constantly seeking the best financing options, monitoring utility and rate changes and vetting new products to provide customers with the best overall experience.

“Our customers know that they mean more to us than just a paycheck,” Van Dyke said. “It’s not just about making money at the end of the day. It’s about making and building communities.”

There will be plenty of future opportunities to install solar in A-C’s community, Petrini said, even if the ITC is not renewed.

“The bankability of solar and the reliability of solar is becoming more and more attractive to financial institutions, and private business owners want to invest their money long-term in something a little bit different,” Petrini said. “I have a feeling we’re going to see very lucrative systems until the end of 2016 because the utility rates appear to be on a steep curve right now. Once that ITC drops away, we’ll come back to where we are at the moment. The way I see it, the solar future is bright.”

The best way to ensure solar continues its upward climb is to be truthful with customers, Petrini said.

“There is a lot of pride in knowing that we are providing a sustainable product and cost savings for our customers,” he said. “I’ve sat in front of customers and recommended that it might not be in their best interest to go with the project. We are a 70-year-old company; we need to make sure we are up-front with our customers and provide all of the knowledge that we have [and] not just trying to sell a project. Making sure we provide the most accurate information is part of the challenge.”

Van Dyke said she’s proud of the work A-C Solar has done.

“With the proper financing, we can get a large-scale institution, with zero out of pocket, saving money from Day 1,” she said. “As a school, that means more scholarships, more money in the classroom. As a business, that means they can hire that new employee. For us, it’s knowing that we’re giving them something that is sustainable from an environmental aspect but it’s also hugely economically sustainable. We can always feel proud of that as a company.”