As our primary sales contact these past 45 years, I have known every one of South Mountain’s clients. And I have usually known them well.
Until 2007, that is, when we began to install solar systems for people other than our design/build clients. At that time, Energy Technology Director Rob Meyers became the primary solar contact, shepherding hundreds toward clean, renewable, power. In those 13 years, we have installed roughly 500 systems for homes, businesses, and landfills across the island. Many of their owners I have never met.
Five years ago, I asked John Guadagno, our Energy Technology Project Manager, to alert me – from time to time – when he turns on new systems, so I could gain a sense of who we are working for and how their projects went. And so he began to email brief vignettes about client and job. Occasionally – very occasionally, unfortunately – I find the time to follow up on them personally. More often I run into people at Cronig’s or elsewhere who approach me and say, “You installed a solar system on my house!”
“Oh, amazing,” I respond, “thanks for saying. How’d it go?”
Invariably they gush.
Recently I read a post from JG and thought, “This is a remarkable record of the human side of doing business. I think I’ll look back, pull some up, and re-read.”
They seemed worth sharing; here are just a few of many:
Today I turned on the 14.7 kW roof mounted solar array at MV Shipyard. For me personally, this was the most enjoyable system to turn on. I have been talking about solar with Phil Hale (the former owner) since the 90’s. Phil has been wanting to do this for nearly 40 years. It is almost fitting that his son, James Hale (now President of MV Shipyard), led the charge. They are very happy. As you know, I really like happy clients. As you also know, these guys are both great friends.
[NOTE: Before coming to South Mountain, JG worked at the MV Shipyard for nearly a decade.]
Polly Hill PV2 – they are addicted! Another 24.85 kW added to the existing 10.46 kW we installed in 2013. They built a new Education center. We installed 12.4 kW on this new building and 12.4 kW on the existing “Cow Barn” building next door. Great clients. When I arrived to provide the walk through there was a crowd of maybe 15 Polly Hill employees. Lots of interest and great questions.
Lin Gallant – 9.66 kW roof mounted at their house in Vineyard Haven. Lin is a structural Engineer, has worked on many solar projects, and has built a new house in VH. He came to us for a HERS rating and consultation with Marc. Lin has turned out to be a great client. Very happy with his installation. We hired him to look at Cottle’s for PV. He will relocate to the Island with his wife and two young children soon. I hope we can work with him in the future.
[NOTE: This was the beginning of an important relationship. After Lin and family moved to the Vineyard, he quit his off-island job and came to work full time at SMCo, where he has brought the structural engineering discipline in-house, helping to integrate our design/build process more than ever.]
Today I turned on a 3.9 kW roof mounted array for Geneva and Calvin Corwin in Vineyard Haven. Geneva found a path for Cape Light Compact to pay for her entire solar array! She is so lovely, with two little ones running around their newly expanded home.
[NOTE: Cape Light Compact partnered with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center in 2018 to offer grants covering the cost of solar on affordable housing. That grant program is no longer available.]
Yesterday I turned on a 5.76 kW roof mounted array for Primo at his house in Vineyard Haven. Fellow co-workers are some of my favorite systems to do. We are so psyched for Primo and his sweet new home.
[NOTE: Primo Lombardi is an SMCo employee and co-owner. We have installed 24 systems on the homes of employees and former employees.]
Today, I met Jim Feiner and Deb Dunn at their home in Chilmark. I turned on their array last week and met them today for a tutorial walk through of their new 7.92 kW ground mounted solar array. They were very excited. Deb said she has been thinking about this for over 15 years.
Yesterday, I met Sean Conley and Teri Mello at their Aikido Dojo (next to their house) in West Tisbury. They ‘flipped the switch’ while I provided a tutorial walk through of their new 7.85 kW roof mounted solar array. Sean has been a life-long Aikido student and now teaches youngsters. He rallied the community to help design and build this DoJo in the early 80’s. You may recognize one of the Harcourt brothers hanging (to right) in the trusses. Sean and Teri are thrilled.
On Wednesday I met Bill Connolly at his home in Edgartown. I ‘flipped the switch’ and provided a tutorial walk through of his new 17.28 kW roof mounted solar array. I met him late in the afternoon before the holiday and we struggled to get his monitor going. It took me about 30 minutes to discover his iPad was so old it did not support the Solar Edge App. His son was visiting for the Turkey holiday and quietly asked if Dad needs a new iPad. Bill emailed me on 11/29 to say he got a new one and the monitoring is fantastic!
Yesterday, I met Ann Lees at her home in Chilmark. I ‘flipped the switch’ and we sat outside while I provided a tutorial walk through of her new 5.76 kW roof mounted solar array. Ann was so lovely to work with (yes I know, broken record). We spoke several times over the phone through the process and yesterday we finally met in person. She is a long time seasonal resident and her husband remembers Hoppy (I think that was what we called your dad?). Ann and her late husband were both physicians. Long ago her husband worked with your dad in CA. She was thrilled to work with South Mountain and noted the whole team from Rob on down did not disappoint!
[NOTE: My Dad, who died in 2016 at the age of 95, was always called Hoppy by friends and family.]
On 6/24/20 I met Alex Morrison at his and Maggie’s new home in Edgartown. Alex ‘flipped the switch’ while I provided a tutorial walk through of their new 14.4 kW roof mounted solar array. Alex and Maggie are three-peat solar clients. We were all thrilled to work with them again and the install – which happened during the early stages of COVID – went smoothly.
Yesterday, I met Scott Stephens and Penny Uhlendorf at their home in Vineyard Haven and provided a tutorial walk through of their new 5.04 kW roof mounted solar array. They are great folks and thrilled with their experience and new solar array.
[NOTE: Scott and Penny own a house – one of my favorites – that we designed and built for Sally Coker (now deceased) maybe 30 years ago.]
That’s a sampling of JG’s reports. Some people consider solar panels and systems to be a commodity. These brief stories say something different – they show the personal side of these transactions, for our clients and for us. They speak of connections between people in our company and those we serve, connections that often last for decades.
We are grateful to our incredible energy technology team – Rob, Faren, JG, Phil, and John M – and to the others who support them – from our engineering team to our admin team, to our trade partners. It takes a village. From the outside, it would be hard to imagine how complex each of these projects are – from sales cycle to site assessments, from policy work to financing, from permitting to installation, from commissioning to long-term monitoring and maintenance.
As Rob and the team constantly improve this process, it becomes more efficient, effective, and client-centric. Systematization does not make it any less human, only more, and all work together to stay one step ahead of the ever-shifting solar policy landscape.
We are grateful, as well, to our clientele, the ones I’ve met and the ones I haven’t. They make this impact-driven work rewarding and meaningful.