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Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
July 11, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Ed Rottmann launches Chroma Energy Group

His rebranded company acquired Efficient Energy of Tennessee, a full-service solar engineering, procurement, and construction contractor that provides national coverage for solar photovoltaic development, design, procurement, and installation.

“I’ve always been wired to create my own company,” Knoxville resident Ed Rottmann says. On the Friday before the tax deadline this year, he closed on the purchase of Efficient Energy of Tennessee (EETN), a full-service solar engineering, procurement, and construction contractor that provides national coverage for solar photovoltaic (PV) development, design, procurement, and installation.

“We were not looking to sell,” says EETN Founder Robbie Thomas who started the company with a partner in 2009 after retiring from the U.S. Navy as a service-disabled veteran. “The market was really primed for a solar firm then. We were in the right place at the right time.”

Today, the company he and the partner launched 14 years ago is part of a new brand named Chroma Energy Group, and Thomas has stayed on as Vice President of Operations. Rottmann is the new venture’s President and Chief Executive Officer.

In some respects, readers who know Chroma Energy’s new leader might think it is a significant career shift in going from being Chief Operating Officer of Stowers Machinery Corporation, a family-owned Caterpillar equipment distributor for six decades, to the owner of a solar company. Rottmann, however, has a great explanation.

“I was focused on the growth of the power division at Stowers and got exposed to grid capacity issues three or four years ago,” he said. “I learned about resiliency and sustainability, areas that have gained more visibility as European countries have struggled with their dependence on Russia for oil.”

Rottmann became more and more committed to the importance of energy independence and the role that renewables must play.

“What’s the best way?” His conclusion is solar.

The two men started talking last October with Thomas telling Rottmann, “If you are really interested, come to a job site.” That took Rottmann to Georgia and a project that EETN was undertaking for Duke Energy.

“We have to work with utility companies, developers, end users, and prime generators like TVA,” Rottmann says. “You have to cover all four.”

As those conversations continued, Thomas says he was encouraged that Rottmann shared his views about the importance of taking care of employees and the culture of a company. “I decided it was a good match,” he added.

Chroma Energy Group is what is referred to as an EPC. That’s the acronym that describes the three-legged stool that the company performs as a contractor – engineering, procurement and construction.

“We are licensed in multiple states,” Thomas says with many of those in the Southeast. Georgia has been a fertile ground for business, and Virginia is an emerging market opportunity.

For Rottmann, entrepreneurship has been in his blood for years. He was born in Buffalo, NY before his father’s job took the family to Bowling Green, KY. Like many young men, he delivered newspapers along with later jobs.

“I always worked growing up,” he says.

After graduating from the University of Kentucky with a B.S. in Management, he moved to the West Coast for nearly three years where he worked for NCR Corporation. Then, Rottmann reentered the educational world to earn an MBA at Vanderbilt before spending 30 months with the Missile Defense Agency in Huntsville, AL.

As far as his plans for integrating EETN into Chroma Energy Group, he says, “We could continue doing what we are doing and see significant growth. We want to diversify and branch out.”

To illustrate the point, Rottmann says that solar is going to be paired with next-generation storage.

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