New York Contractor Targets Solar Market in Schools

There is no denying that the commercial-scale market is highly competitive. However, one way that companies can stand out from the competition is by targeting a specific niche. One such company is Sunrise Power Solutions.

This company ranks 93 on the Top Solar Contractor List of 2022 and had, for several years served as an electrical contractor for installing solar systems in schools. This is before they began providing solar services 12 years ago.

The company got into the market at a time when most school districts were using small, 10KW systems for their science experiments. Despite this, Sunrise Power Solutions jumped right into working with them as they saw a better opportunity for the future. According to the director of business development at the company, Stephen Foley, doing a few of those minuscule projects translated to bigger projects and helped the company grow to where it is now.

Today, the company boasts of being the largest installer of school solar systems in New York. Nevertheless, Foley says that school solar installation is a bit complicated compared to other solar installation types. 

This is because many stakeholders are involved, including the general public if the project needs taxpayer funding. Also, several officials need to give their buy-in and the New York State Education Department has to give authorization.

Before beginning a new project, Foley, who has a master’s degree in educational leadership and certification, meets with the district superintendent and other officials. Although Foley admits that school solar installations can take years to initiate the project and complete the approval process, his appearance as a school business official makes the entire process easy.

Besides the administration, the school board also needs to be involved in the process. Having been part of school board meetings, Foley said that the school board members are unlikely to support something that appears risky to them and costs taxpayers’ money. 

This is where Energy Service Performance Contracts (ESPCs) come in handy when it comes to school solar installations. ESPCs are basically comprehensive contracts between a facility owner and an Energy Service Company (ESCO), where the energy service company audits the school’s energy. They then procure the efficiency measures including solar installations and LED lighting in one contract.

According to Foley, most schools are using ESPCs to obtain solar installations and they finance them using bonds or maintenance budgets. Others can obtain municipal grants or rebates. However, if the solar project underperforms, then the energy service company will take it upon itself to pay the difference.

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