2013 was a big year for first graduate of “Energy Mentor Network”
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Jason Loyet says 2013 was a significant year in his life. He got married, moved to Nashville, and started Solar Site Design.
Late last year, Loyet and his company were recognized as the first graduate of the new “Energy Mentor Network,” an initiative of the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council and Launch Tennessee.
This is not the St. Louis native’s first start-up. Loyet says he has a software development background and was part of two start-ups before getting involved in the solar sector in 2005. That work brought him to Tennessee.
“We would knock on the doors of electrical contractors,” Loyet explained. “We became their in the box solar design team.”
It was a time when there were significant incentives for companies to install solar, particularly on their roofs. He recalls working with contractors like Lawson Electric Company in Chattanooga and Danny Davis Electrical Contractors Inc. in Maryville to scope-out projects and do the engineering and design work.
“I fell in love with the market,” Loyet says of Tennessee, quickly adding, “We developed several solar projects in this market over the years, but there’s still a lot of potential for solar here.” His work was not limited to Tennessee or even the Southeast. In fact, he worked across the country with companies like SunEdison Inc. That 18-month engagement involved developing a channel builder program.
“That work gave us a look behind the curtain at the future (of things like) customer acquisition and design,” Loyet explained.
During those years, he drew on his software background to develop a data acquisition platform to capture all of the design information needed in a single visit to a customer’s site rather than having to make multiple trips. That decreases project times, lowers costs, and enhances overall efficiency.
Today, Loyet is still working with electrical contractors, but in a business-to-business (B2B) “Solar Marketplace” launched about 18 months ago that connects those wanting to install solar with companies that have the expertise required. Solar Site Design serves only commercial and industrial enterprises.
“We do all of the data collection, design work, and engineering and provide the customer with an ROI,” he says. “Then, our marketplace sources up to five quotes from qualified contractors for the project.”
The final selection on which contractor to use is made by the customer. Solar Site Design is paid when a solar project is built, which allows for the commercial or industrial customer to enjoy free preliminary engineering and design. Only when they choose a contractor do payments begin. To be included as an approved marketplace contractor, installers pay a small monthly fee to receive these project leads in the marketplace.
“This is not a low bid marketplace,” Loyet says, adding that Solar Site Design provides significant value to both customers and contractors. “We’re compressing the project timeframe by as much as six months.”
As far as the “Energy Mentor Network,” Loyet had nothing but praise for the program and those who advised Solar Site Design, calling-out Harvey Abouelata, Vice President of Solar Alliance, and Jim Monsor, lead for the “Life Science Network” that provides similar mentoring for start-ups in that sector.
“It was fantastic,” he said of the experience. “Harvey helped coin our new tagline – ‘Sales Ready Project,’ and we identified new partnership opportunities during the year we participated.”
As he looks forward, Loyet sees a bright future for solar in spite of new taxes being levied on solar panels imported from other countries.
“Every building will become an energy node,” he believes.