Land of Opportunity, April 2014
Borrego Solar was founded in San Diego in 1980 as a residential solar company. Over time, the company has transitioned into a designer and installer of commercial solar power systems. Jim Brennan serves as the company’s Director of Project Development in the Western United States.
How many employees do you have?
We have just over 100 employees nationwide and installed about 50 Megawatts of solar nationwide in 2013 and expect to exceed that this year. We can handle such a large amount of business by looking to contractors in specific areas to accomplish our jobs. We have our own project managers, site managers and superintendents but when doing a job in Modesto, for example, we will hire local subcontractors to do the work.
What challenges have you had to overcome and how did you achieve that?
I think that the solar industry in the last 5-6 years has been on what some call the “solar coaster.” It’s been a very high growth industry, but there have been a lot of ups and downs. We’ve had four straight years of profitable growth, but around us there’s been a lot of turn and churn in the industry as companies come and go and the supply of module has changed dramatically in where they’re coming from and how much they cost. That’s meant that we can offer better pricing to our customers, which had been very good for the industry. But combine a relatively young industry with high growth and throw in the economic chaos of 2008-2009, and that definitely hurts some parts of the industry. Borrego has made it through by keeping a steady hand on the tiller. We’re very much looking at high quality and bringing good value and a stable environment for our customers. All those things together has allowed us to grow prosperously in what has been a very tumultuous time in the solar industry.
What is the single biggest reason you have achieved the level of success you have?
Getting a lot of word of mouth referrals from others who like the way we do business, have had a really good experience and are really anxious to refer us to their friends and other businesses they know. Investing in a solar system is really kind of a long term relationship. These systems can last 30 years or longer. Having a 30+ year history in the state puts us in a really good position to offer customers the security of knowing we’re not going to drop off the radar.
What do you like about your job?
I like the idea that every day the sun is up it’s raining down energy on us and we’re figuring out a way to capture that energy and use it. I also like that now the economics of solar are such that for many customers—particularly for customers in the Modesto area—it looks like the economics of other equipment. Meaning, the paybacks and the rates of return on investing in a solar system look very similar to investing in other capital equipment. That puts us in a good place when dealing with business customers.
What are your plans for the future?
We have great growth plans for 2014 and beyond. We’re going to stay on the path we’re on and continue to provide high quality systems to our customers. The adoption of solar across the country continues to pick up and we’re keeping an eye on different markets and making sure that we’ll be available in those markets when it makes sense. The California and Central Valley markets have been the leader for all 50 states.
What advice do you have for business people when it comes to achieving their goals?
Know your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what you’re good at and what you’re not good at is very important. Then just being passionate and believing in the project that you’re working in. To me, solar just seems to make a lot of sense for a lot of places now. It may not be perfect everywhere, but I think for those places that it works we should be using more of it.
What do you like about doing business in the Modesto community and why do you think this is the Land of Opportunity
Both the Central Valley’s agricultural and industrial communities have actually been great adopters of solar because they realize that it’s not only a good clean source of energy but that the economics also look good so it makes a lot of sense. We see great growth out for the next several years.