The U.S. has 1 million untapped solar entrepreneurs, says Kerim Baran, instructor of HeatSpring’s Solar Entrepreneurship course.
Right now, the U.S. has about 10,000 active solar installers and 1 million electricians. Many of these electricians aren’t aware that they can easily become solar installers, says Baran, an engineer who has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree and has thrived as an entrepreneur. An immigrant from Turkey, he created a social network that experienced viral growth just before Facebook was launched; his company was bigger than Facebook for the first two years. He also co-founded CivicSolar, a national solar equipment distributor that was acquired by CED Greentech.
Opportunities for Electricians, Contractors, Software Designers, Inventors
Now active in the solar industry as an angel investor, educator and other roles, Baran is committed to helping others do good in the world–especially in solar. He’s excited about the opportunities available to those interested in renewable energy. Electricians, contractors, software designers and inventors are among those who could benefit from the solar industry’s rapid growth.
Those most qualified to jump into the industry quickly are electricians, he says.
“When building solar assets, the most complicated part is the electrical part. All electricians are qualified to build solar into their business,” he says.
Local contractors are also well positioned to join the solar industry. These are people who may have been serving their communities for decades and have strong ties with local people. They also have a sense of duty and respect for their communities and would likely do a good job at half the cost of the larger installation companies.
“Local contractors will essentially become the maintainers of our power infrastructure in many ways as we transition to renewable energy,” he says.
Platform Companies that Support Solar Installers and Designers
But numerous other opportunities await those seeking to work in the solar industry. They include so-called “platform companies,” many of them software firms that service solar installers and designers, says Baran.
Right now, these platform companies include Energy Sage, which provides a comparison shopping platform; Helioscope, which offers a solar design tool; Collective Sun, a finance company that offers financing for non-profit organizations; Stable Solar, which focuses on operations and maintenance; and GreenLancer, which provides standardized permit design and engineering.
Solar Inventions on the Rise
But that’s not all. In Baran’s entrepreneurship class, which offers mentorship, education and support for solar entrepreneurs at any stage, he has worked with students who have launched numerous creative endeavors. Their inventions include a product to prevent pigeons from relieving themselves on solar panels, a solar caddy to carry solar panels up to the roof and other gadgets.
To start such companies, people don’t need large amounts of capital. “My experience as an angel investor has shown that a founder figures out how to make money without capital in the first six months,” he says. “Once you figure it out, then you should raise capital and grow.”
Sharing Solar Knowledge for the Good of the Planet
Baran didn’t create his latest project, SolarAcademy, with the goal of turning a big profit. Instead, he wants to share knowledge that allows solar industry members–and budding entrepreneurs–to thrive and help create a better planet.
“The ultimate behavior that needs to change to have a healthier and more balanced planet is to share knowledge,” he says. “We need to create a new reality of how to build companies.”