Eric Hansen – True South Solar – Southern Oregon Rooftop Revolution0
Eric Hansen and his crew at True South Solar are leading a rooftop revolution here in Southern Oregon. All time great pricing and an irresistible 0% down loan offer has consumers lining up to plug into clean, green, solar electricity. True South Solar is a turn-key installation contractor that delivers all the tax credits and incentives to customers. They also help you understand exactly how your system works and earns money for you. True South Solar is the largest solar electric design and build firm here in the Valley. They have done projects ranging in size from the smallest .48 KW community garden system to the largest 110 KW commercial system in Southern Oregon which you can see at the Ashland’s Darex Corporation. I spoke with Eric Hansen, Principal Owner and General Manager, to learn more about his company and his crew’s passion for creating a rooftop revolution here in Southern Oregon.
Eric, thank for speaking with us today. To begin with please tell us a little bit about your company and introduce us to your team.
Thanks, True South Solar is your local solar electric company. We’re based out of Ashland and have five full-time employees. Ry and Sam are our installation team. You’ll see them driving the truck with all the tool boxes between jobs. They’re licensed solar electricians. Matt coordinates our sales. When you call our 1-800 number chances are you’ll get Matt. Shawn is an employee/owner and Project Manager but he wears many hats; sales, permits, engineering, and he’s a licensed solar electrician. Shawn and I have worked together for a long time. He lives in the Applegate in a Net Zero home. I’m the general manager and principle owner and get to wear all the hats. I love my job; especially working with our clients, the technology, and advancing the industry.
We started the company over three years ago. Shawn and I were working for our mentor’s small Ma & Pa shop and started to see out of town contractor’s coming into the valley to meet demand for larger, complex, systems. I realized that we needed a local solution to serve the Valley’s growing needs. So in 2010 I opened up True South Solar with our electrical, and general contracting licenses. Together with our colleague Jacob the three of us had the experience and enthusiasm to tackle any project – big or small. We established ourself as a complete design/build firm and started bidding on jobs against competitors from Portland, Eugene, and Bend.
Solar energy is a big passion for everyone involved. Can you talk to us about the excitement you all share in growing this Southern Oregon rooftop revolution?
We love the technology and the impact of solar electricity. What’s not to love? Install it on your roof and it just sits there, smiling at the sun, making you clean, green energy for generations to come. No maintenance, no moving parts, it’s an awesome technology. And we love that solar is something you can just do. We’re all trying to be better planetary citizens and here’s something really impactful you can do simply by making a phone call and having it installed.
Now that solar is a lot less expensive its more accessible to the average homeowner. Folks that wanted to go solar a few years ago but couldn’t afford it can now. We really are seeing this as a rooftop revolution.
Your projects have ranged in size from small residential, large commercial and even municipal. Can you tell us about some these projects and the primary goals you set into place when you take on each project?
Yes, we’ve deigned and installed the smallest and largest systems in Southern Oregon. We’ve done a two panel system to power a community garden’s well and a 247 panel system to power most of Darex Corporation. All of our commercial systems are pretty large. Our residential systems range between 12 and 16 panels and power somewhere between 30% and 100% of the family’s needs.
Goals of every project are different but it usually comes down to budget, space, or energy production. Helman school, for instance, had a budget to work with from grass roots fundraising, grant, and City incentive monies. We sharpened our pencils, donated some labor, and installed a system that exceeded their expectations. Another budget driven job was at the Medford airport. They too we’re working a budget from a grant as well as some incentive money. They had a system size goal and they needed a huge structure built to put it on.
When the Rogue Creamery called us they had a canopy designed to cover their milk exchange location and they asked us to fill it up with solar. So for that job we needed to design and engineer the most power dense and efficient system as possible.
The Modern Fan Company wanted to offset most of their electricity. They have a huge roof so space was not an issue. We designed a system to meet their energy goals and it was a really good investment for them.
Eric, you mentioned on the phone that many of your clients are number crunchers and that they really care about the investment and savings that solar provides.
Yes, solar is good investment. Our systems are usually showing returns between 8-12% over the life of the system, and sometimes more. Once we’ve determined a site has enough sun we its plug specifics into our proposal software to generate a detailed report. We’re finding that a medium sized system’s costs are offset 90% by tax credits, incentives, and energy savings. Over the life of the system they’re making clients a lot of money and off-setting tons and tons of CO2.
Listening to you on the phone, I found it really intriguing to hear the level of detail and analysis you guys go through with each project. Can you talk more about how you work with your clients?
Sure, our first contact with new customers is usually from a phone call or request for quote via the Web site. The first thing we talk about is their site; is it sunny, are they thinking roof mount or ground mount, what kind of roof do they have, and how much power to they use? We usually look it up on Google Earth and talk about first impressions like orientation, trees, and potential shading.
At that point if it looks like the site is suitable for solar we make an appointment for a site assessment. We come out, no charge, and talk with the clients about their solar goals and then climb up on the roof and measure it for available space and efficiency. Using a shade analysis tool we plug in the the tilt and orientation, it takes a picture, calculates all the factors including shade from any obstacles, and it generates a “solar grade”. If their grade is 75% or better they’re eligible for the tax credits! We use that information to also determine if they’re either the City of Ashland or Energy Trust of Oregon cash incentives.
Using all that information from the client and site we go back to the office and work up a proposal. A couple days later we go back to the clients home and go over the proposal. We look how the system will look on the roof, how much electricity it will offset, price before and after tax credits and incentives, return on investment, and how much it reduces their carbon footprint. We also talk about the equipment used and warranties served. We use Oregon made panels and mostly American made inverters. The panels are have a twenty five year warranty and the inverters have a ten year warranty. Warranty on our craftsmanship is five years. If financing is something they want to explore we talk about that too.
Please talk to us about Net Zero and the how a residential rooftop solar system can actually give energy back into the grid and benefit our local community.
A Net Zero home produces as much electricity as it consumes in a year. We achieve this without batteries by using the grid as our battery. It works like this: when the sun is shining and you’re making electricity you use that electricity in your home first. If you produce more than you’re consuming that “extra” electricity goes back on to the grid and you get a credit for it. By over producing during the sunny months you can build up enough of a credit to cover your Winter and Spring months. We have clients that literally have a minimum electric bill; they’re Net Zero homes.
Putting clean, green electricity back onto the gird makes us more sustainable and independent. Also, sharing electricity with your neighbors is power that we don’t have to buy from dirty coal plants.
So, we are actually helping reduce coal powered electric dependency by producing power that our friends and neighbors can use?
Yes, between the new big wind farms and rise in solar electric installations we’ve helped shut down over one hundred coal plants – which means a healthier overall environment. The Oregon Senate mandates that we produce at least 20% of our electricity from renewables by 2020. That’s doable but we have to get to work… A lot of people don’t know that we still buy 67% of our electricity from coal, 16% from natural gas, and 9% from hydro, and only about 7% from wind and solar.
Right now many of readers have cash sitting in bank accounts earning a very low return. Can you talk about how an investment in a new solar system can earn 8 – 12% back for them?
To determine the cost effectiveness of a solar electric system, we conduct an analysis of the life-cycle costs and benefits associated with the proposed project. The primary financial benefit of a solar electric system is the avoided cost of electricity. To evaluate those benefits we analyze historic electricity use and model the expected output of the proposed system. We also factor in utility rate schedules before and after solar to arrive at expected monthly savings after your solar system is installed. After all factors are pugged into our software we’re seeing Internal Rates of Return between 8 and 12+%. If your money is sitting in the bank doing nothing you should consider going solar as a solid financial investment.
Please tell us about your amazing 0% down offer to get started with a new system?
Buying solar now is as easy as buying a car. The solar loan is great tool for folks that own their home, have good credit, and solid financials, but don’t have a lot of money sitting in the bank. The loan is FHA Title 1 home improvement loan that covers 100% of the costs of system system. Loan fees are all rolled into the loan so there’s no upfront costs. After the first year’s tax credits come back you can apply that money back to the principle, reamortize the loan, and significantly reduce the monthly payment.
Eric, your company goes above and beyond to help customers entirely through the process of switching over to solar. You guys even help in finding all available tax credits. Tell us more.
Yes, we handle all the City of Ashland or Energy Trust cash incentive reservations as well as the Oregon Department of Energy’s tax credits. We also pull all the necessary permits to deliver a completely turn-key package to our clients.
On the phone you mentioned that NOW is a great time to get a new solar system installed. Why is that?
We’ve seen the price of solar slashed in half over the past few years but the tax credits and incentives stay relatively strong. Those things combined have solar at the best deal its ever been. For example, a smaller 12 panel, 3.24 KW system is paid for in four years then goes on to provide free electricity for decades to come.
In your experience what are the three main reasons your clients have decided to switch over to solar?
1. Energy Independence & Sustainability
2. Financial Investment
3. Positive Environmental Action
Honestly why do your clients choose to work with True South Solar?
We like to joke that we have the best clients in the business, but in all seriousness, we are committed to first identifying and then exceeding our clients expectations. Here are some testimonials:
“True South Solar installers were professional and courteous. We appreciate the extra care they took to make our installation look tidy and discrete.”
—Jason Eaton, Ashland OR
“Our project was very challenging in its size and complexity. True South Solar tackled our ground- mounted system with ease and grace; a job other contractors declined to bid on because of our challenging site. They also completed it on a tight timeline and delivered what they promised. We had high expectations and they were met fully.”
—Dr. Alan Binette, Medford, OR
“Our entire experience with True South Solar was very positive and enjoyable and left us with a feeling of top-notch professionalism. I heartily endorse True South Solar without reservation and recommend them to any and all who might be contemplating a solar installation.”
—Bill H., Grants Pass, OR
You guys have a great partnership with KS Wild please tell us about it?
Yes, we support KS Wild and their climate change campaigns so we’re offering a deal to their membership and the organization. Every member that installs a solar electric system with us will get a $200 discount, and we’ll donate $200 to KS Wild. In the true nature of collaboration its a win all the way around – especially towards positive climate change.
What would the next step be for someone wanting to learn more about working with your company?
Call us at 800-947-1187 or reach out thorough our Web site at http://truesouthsolar.net
Any last comments or words for our readers?
I’d like to thank for whole Valley for supporting solar and thank those that have already stepped forward in the rooftop revolution. I vision a sustainable future for us and our children and we’re looking forward to doing out part towards that end. We hope to hear from you soon!
True South Solar Inc
258 A St. Ste. 1-56,
Ashland, OR 97520