Summit Solar aims to help the Upstate adopt more green technologies

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Summit Solar co-founders Josh Williams and Derek Landino want to make one thing clear – their company has no intention of leaving Greenville. In fact, the duo is here to curate a more sustainable Upstate for future generations.

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“We’re not solar gypsies. Too many companies or entrepreneurs come in and reap the benefits of the solar trend and then leave. Greenville is our home, and we’re here for the long haul. We’re just wanting to provide a great customer experience so that more people ultimately see the benefits of clean energy,” said co-founder Josh Williams.

The solar energy company offers both residential and commercial solar installations, which are completed in one or two days. A design and engineering team must determine if a house or business is a qualified site. The team then measures the roof to gauge how much sun it receives and creates a custom design for a house or business.

The company offers various solar panel brands, including American-made Solar World as well as foreign brands such as LG and Hyundai. The typical panel ranges from 280 watts to 350 watts, according to Landino. The solar panels are only offered in black, which features an anti-reflective coating and produces more energy.

Summit handles all permitting before an installation.

The company also works with utility companies such as Duke Energy to apply net metering to systems. Net meters measure the amount of electricity produced by a solar system and the amount of electricity used in a home. The excess electricity from the solar system is recorded by the meter and credited to the bill.

Duke Energy started offering net metering earlier this year. Solar energy users receive a credit of 1 kilowatt-hour for every kilowatt-hour they send to the Duke Energy Grid. Customers are also eligible for state and federal tax credits. Summit also partners with energy co-ops throughout the Upstate, according to Williams.

Customers can also qualify for the Duke Energy Solar Rebate Program.

The purchase and installation of a solar panel system cost about $26,000 on average, according to Williams. Summit offers a zero down financing option with fixed loan payments for up to 25 years. It also offers a 25-year performance guarantee and a 10-year product and workmanship warranty.

However, Summit doesn’t offer leasing options. “So many people are suckered into solar leases. If you don’t rent your house, you shouldn’t rent your power. That’s our motto sort of. It’s a no-brainer,” said Williams.

After installation, customers are able to download a mobile application that records and measures solar usage. “We pay for that service for our customers so that they can track their daily, monthly and yearly usage,” said Williams. “It also allows us to track the overall solar production happening across the board.”

Summit already has more than 50 systems in the process of being installed. But Williams and Landino expect that number to grow. The duo has a combined 12 years of industry experience and management of more than 10,000 solar installations.

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Building a business

Landino and Williams met in 2013 at Vivint Solar, a Utah-based solar energy company. The duo became friends and left Vivint a year later for Trinity Solar in New Jersey. For about two years, the duo managed about 600 solar installs a month and grew the company until it was the fourth largest solar company in the U.S.

In May, Williams and Landino decided to start their own company. “We had always had the aspiration to be entrepreneurs,” said Williams. “We felt we had learned so much from all of our past experiences that it was time to open up shop on our own and deliver a customer experience that the South hasn’t seen yet.”

In July, the duo opened Summit, which has created multiple jobs and is actively hiring locally. Now, the company expects about 100 additional installs this year. The success could be due to the company’s approach to sales, which puts a premium on the savings and environmental benefits of using solar panels.

“We’re both passionate about the environmental benefits. But focusing on that makes it seem like a gimmick, which it definitely isn’t,” said Williams. “I’d say that about 60 percent of our customers aren’t going to make the decision to go solar because of what it does to their carbon footprint. People want to save money.”

“One of the reasons for moving down here was the Duke Energy solar rebate,” he added.

Summit Solar co-founders Derek Landino (left) and Josh Williams (right) hope to bring more green technologies to the Upstate. Photo by Summit Solar.
Summit Solar co-founders Derek Landino (left) and Josh Williams (right) hope to bring more green technologies to the Upstate. Photo by Summit Solar.

Almost one year after its launch, the Duke Energy Solar Rebate Program has issued about $5 million in rebates to its South Carolina customers. Duke Energy offers $1 per watt of installed generating capacity direct current. The small rebate is open to residents with solar systems producing 20 kilowatts or less. The large rebate program is open to businesses producing more than 20 kilowatts and less than 1,000 kilowatts.

That means a residential customer who installs a 5-kilowatt system could earn rebates of about $5,000 under the small solar rebate program. Likewise, a business that installs 50 kilowatts could earn a rebate of $50,000. Customers typically receive rebates a month after the solar installation is online and certified by Duke Energy.

The typical Summit customer has an 8,000-kilowatt system, according to Williams. The average South Carolina homeowner saves $432 per year by switching to solar.

But the focus on savings is part of a bigger plan to curate interest in sustainability.

“We’re more than just a solar company at the end of the day. We’re educators. It’s our responsibility to teach our customers and even potential customers about the benefits of clean energy. Once they install, they become more energy conscious. They start thinking about it more. That’s how we’re going to reduce carbon footprints,” said Landino.

In the U.S., carbon dioxide accounts for 82 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, which can cause multiple health issues. But many residents and companies are adopting clean energy sources such as solar. Those sources reduce the use of power plants, which account for 31 percent of U.S. emissions, according to the EPA.

Williams and Landino plan to educate residents about the benefits of solar at Artoberfest at Upcountry Provisions in Travelers Rest on Saturday, Oct. 15.

As for the future, the duo plans to offer solar in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina next year with headquarters remaining in Greenville. Williams and Landino also plan to adopt and sell more sustainable technologies in the near future.

“I don’t think solar is the end game,” said Williams. “We’re always thinking three or four years ahead, because we want to be on the forefront of anything green and exciting. That could be battery storage and even solar efficiencies. We’re really digging into tech for off-grid living. Right now, battery tech isn’t there. But we’ll keep an eye on it.”

He added that Summit plans to work with the city of Greenville to adopt various green technologies.

For more information, visit mysummitsolar.com.

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