Solar panel business finding success

Monday , July 29, 2013 - 12:08 AM

Owner of Solartek Solutions, Jess Phillips, sits in front of a 28kW solar PV system that was...

Ruth Malan

BOUNTIFUL — Farmington resident Jess Phillips didn’t plan to go into the solar energy business, but a friend inspired the venture. A little more than four years ago, Phillips was sitting next to Adam Raines on a bus in Colorado when Raines discussed solar energy with him.

“It was Adam’s idea, but it seemed real to me, so I talked with my dad about it,” Phillips said.

His dad called four solar companies but only one of those companies responded, and the one that responded didn’t follow up. Phillips recognized a need.

Phillips, Raines and Trent Vansice were working for a Fortune 15 company when they decided to go into business together. And solar energy was the right fit, because there was a gap in customer service and commitment in the solar energy field.

“We are unique. We do everything from A to Z,” Phillips said, adding that the three-and-a-half–year-old company, SolarTek Solutions, does everything from selling to designing, financing and installation.

“There will never be a better time to use solar than now,” Phillips said.

Sterling Sill, partner in Mike and Sterling’s Flooring America, at 540 N. 500 West, in Bountiful, agrees.

Sill’s son was interested in solar energy, so he decided to look into it.

“The more I researched, the more it made sense,” Sill said.

Solar panels were installed on his private home in February 2011, and he says he loved it so he decided to use the same energy system on the roof of Mike and Sterling’s flooring store.

The panels are weighted down so they stay on the roof. The huge windstorm in December 2011 didn’t even move the panels. Sill said his home lost shingles, but the solar panels remained intact.

“What is amazing is that this year’s bills are lower than last year’s,” Sill said. “In the long term we are definitely ahead,and in the short term our bills got a lot lower.”

Solar in both homes and businesses is hooked up to the power company’s grid, so if they need more power than the panels can produce, the owner can purchase it from the power company, and if they have too much electricity, it is sent on to the power grid, and credits are given from the power company. In Sill’s case, the power company is Bountiful City Power.

“We build up extra credits when there is extra sunlight,” said Sill. “We feel like it has been a good move.”

The lighting and insulation in Sill’s home also was changed to become more energy-efficient — something SolarTek recommends.

The size and number of solar panels needed is figured out by the SolarTek Solutions engineer.

“We look at the power bill, so we never sell more than is needed,” Phillips said.

With government incentives and low interest rates, solar power is more affordable than ever, he said. There is a 30 percent federal rebate and a state tax rebate that bring the cost down.

Phillips said that within six or seven years, the investment is covered. And power rates keep increasing with the traditional power companies. Phillips said Rocky Mountain Power has scheduled increases of 8 to 10 percent per year for the next 10 years. Solar power will never increase in cost and the customer actually owns his power.

Most of the solar panels are made in the United States. They also sell and install solar shingles, so the roof looks much like a regular shingled roof.

“We use products made in the USA whenever possible,” Phillips said.

SolarTek Solutions does the financing and if a system is paid for within a year, it is the same as paying cash.

“Solar will not get you into debt, solar will get you out of debt,” Phillips said.

And there is no maintenance. There is a 10-year warranty on craftsmanship and a 25-year warranty on the panels.

Through technology, the customer can use an iPad or computer to monitor the panels and how much electricity is being produced.

“What I love about what we do is, we leave the customer in a better place than they were in before,” Phillips said. And the solar system increases the value of the home or business.

Although they have installed systems on many homes and businesses, one of the newest is on a Chevron gas station in Salt Lake City.

The company has grown quickly, causing a move to a new location with more warehouse space.

Those interested may contact SolarTek Solutions at 6824 S. 300 West, in Midvale; call 801-878-3363; or visit the website at www.Solarteksolutions.com.

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