People of the 10th anniversary Top Solar Contractors list: Mona Reese, Brightstar Solar
How did you get into solar energy?
Jon and I completed the photovoltaic program at SUNY Ulster over the weekends while working at our corporate jobs. We had a solar background, but we wanted a real apprenticeship. We quit work the same day and then drove across the country to California to volunteer with Grid Alternatives, a nonprofit that installs solar energy in low-income households. They had four offices at the time (Bay, Central Valley (Fresno), San Diego, and Greater LA) and we applied for every volunteer opportunity at each of the offices. Volunteer positions were in high demand and you weren’t chosen for every project you volunteered to work on. One day we would volunteer north of the bay and the next day we would drive through the night to work at the border with Mexico. We eventually became team leaders and trained new volunteers on installing solar energy. One of the construction managers even took us to their office and taught us about design, permits and engineering. We brought that knowledge back to Massachusetts, where we started Brightstar Solar.
What is your favorite part of working in the solar industry?
We are part of the solution, not the problem. Our customers are saving money and doing something that’s good for the planet – it’s a good idea. After running this business for 12 years, we (and our crew) still get excited every time we turn on a new installation for a customer and show the meter running backwards.
What has surprised you most about the solar industry over the past 10 years?
The number of companies that continue to use aggressive sales tactics. The numbers speak for themselves, so we’ve never understood why companies feel the need to sell hard, use all sorts of mysterious “discounts” or extremely optimistic production estimates.
What are your solar predictions for the next 10 years?
We are clearly on the way to greater deployment of storage solutions. This feels similar to the slope of the PV module uptake curve 10-15 years ago. As PV prices continue to fall, there will be more competition and the market will move towards commoditization, which will likely open the door to some consolidation in the installation world.
How did you/your company stand out in the past year?
In the same way that we have distinguished ourselves for 12 years, which is having some of the best and most experienced employees in the business and a very high level of owner involvement. We tell the truth, stand behind our work and keep everyone happy.
How do you help improve the industry?
We help give the industry a better name through our honesty, laid-back approach to sales, and commitment to meeting all of our commitments.