Nils Behn, Aegis Renewable Energy

For the 10th anniversary of the Top Solar Contractors list, we’re sharing Q&As with the people who make the industry run every day. Read more interviews here.

How did you get started in solar energy?

Fresh out of college, my now-wife and I moved to Hells Canyon in Idaho and lived off the grid for eight years. I built our straw bale house there and mounted four solar panels in a large Douglas fir to power the house. Thirty years later, I now have a much better understanding of the value of building codes.

What is your favorite part of working in the solar industry?

I have always lived my life with the ethos that whatever I do should make a net positive contribution to the well-being of our planet. Working in the solar industry, we all fulfill that purpose in spades. That’s my favorite part.

What has surprised you most about the solar industry in the past 10 years?

I would have expected there to be more industry consolidation. The sharks that gobble up the minnows. But in fact, small and medium-sized solar companies are competing and winning.

What are your solar predictions for the next 10 years?

With national sentiment and our leaders finally taking the climate emergency seriously, we will see a massive spike in our industry’s growth. The electrification of transportation, heating and cooling will drive existing customers to expand their systems or participate in community solar projects, and the mainstreaming of the technology will make solar ubiquitous.

How did you/your company stand out in the past year?

Aegis was able to keep all employees on duty during the pandemic and our transition to the virtual workspace was fairly seamless, while we had one of our best years ever.

How do you help improve the industry?

Aegis’ laser focus on customer service, quality and responsible project location helps counteract the “turn and burn” mentality of a few, fortunately rare, bad actors.

What was it like entering the market in 2011?

It was exciting and exhausting. Building the business from the ground up allowed us to draw on the best parts of what we had learned from our years in the industry and get rid of the chaff. Solar finally became more accepted, viable and affordable and we knew that if we grew the business gently, we could make it a success.

How has your solar business changed since it started?

We started with commercial solar and wind projects. Within a year or two, we have completely switched to solar because of the reality of where the market was at the time.

What advice would you give to yourself or the company ten years later in 2011?

Grow your team slowly and surround yourself with talented team members, but remember that a toxic talent is never worth keeping. Be flexible and agile in an ever-changing market. Stay positive and have fun.

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