Looking Back & Looking Ahead: Commercial Solar Operations

As part of our 20th Anniversary celebrations, we’ll be showcasing a different ReVision team every month. We'll look at how the team and its roles have changed over the past two decades, and glance ahead at what the future might hold.

Looking Back & Looking Ahead: Commercial Solar Operations

The Commercial Operations team works within a few focus areas, collaborating closely to build solar projects, both on and off-site, for businesses, municipalities, and nonprofit organizations. After our wonderful sales team works with customers to identify their clean energy goals, the Engineering, Design, and Estimating team takes the location and designs an efficient and cost-effective project to achieve those goals. The Development team helps make it possible with utility interconnection, and permitting at the local, state, and federal levels. The projects then get handed off to the Construction team, made up of project manager and site superintendents, who manage the actual day-to-day building of the projects, working closely with our valued subcontractors. 

Scratch Baking Co SolarSolar Hot Water on top of Scratch Baking Co., an early commercial solar customer. ReVision has always done commercial work, even back in the early days of 2003 when we were installing solar hot water systems. Photovoltaic (PV) solar technology at the time was so expensive that it only made sense for a small subset of residences, but as the price of PV came down around 2008, we recognized an opportunity to bring PV solar to our commercial customers. 

James Hasselbeck, now our Chief Operating Officer, joined ReVision in 2012. At this time, our Operations team (which was also our sales team, design team, and office staff) installed primarily 10-50 kilowatt systems for small businesses. We slowly increased our system sizes and began to subcontract a portion of them in 2015. The technology was still relatively new.

"We were working with well-established electrical contractors," James explained, "but most of them didn’t know how to build solar because it hadn’t been a market opportunity. So we established a mutually beneficial relationship with our subcontractors; we taught them about solar and they taught us efficient electrical work." We still maintain and value these relationships today. 

Large-Scale Solar Launches in Durham

town-of-durham-gravel-pit-solar-lee-nh.jpgThe first large project that we fully subcontracted and ran from start to finish was a 651-kilowatt array for the Town of Durham, NH, built on an abandoned gravel pit. At the time it was the largest in New Hampshire.

“The Durham gravel pit array is really where we learned development and engineering for large solar projects,” said James. “We learned how to do the full project – project management, site supervision, design, procurement, engineering – with multiple subcontractors.”  

Shaw Brother Solar ArrayOnly four years later we installed a 3.7 megawatt project for the Shaw Brothers in Buxton, Maine, on a 15 acre gravel pit. Although we were able to use many of the skills developed in Durham, the larger project and updated solar policies brought new elements to learn, including the intricacies of sitework and largescale interconnection work with utilities.  

“It was both very exciting and really hard to be first,” said James. “There wasn’t a rule book we could follow, or a checklist.” In addition to correctly installing and connecting these large projects, we also had to figure out how to maintain them and keep them operating over their 30+ year life span. ReVision handles projects from original site procurement through the Operating & Maintenance (O&M) agreements. O&M of these large-scale projects is very different than a typical residential home, so our team has scaled up to support quality-control inspections, monitor projects remotely, and run regular physical inspections.   

What does the future hold?  

Anna Fincke SoPo Landfill.jpegAnna Fincke explores the South Portland landfill project on her first day at ReVision. We’ll continue to expand our Commercial Operations team to be able to meet the demands of the future. Vice President of Commercial Operations Anna Fincke has only been leading the team for a year but already has a sense of what’s to come in the transition to clean energy for businesses and municipalities. 

Solar + Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging and Battery Storage

“Right now, most of what we do is solar,” Anna explains. “In 5 years, I would expect that Electric Vehicle charging (both DC Fast Charging and dedicated charging for fleets, municipal, school buses) will be a bigger portion of what we do. We’d love to see EV chargers at every gas station! There’s been consistent growth over the last few years but it’s really taking off now as there are more EVs on the road and  more funding at local, state, and federal levels.”  

ev charging why revision energy.JPGWe will also see an increase in EV charging and battery storage systems that are coupled directly with solar.  

“I can imagine a future where pretty much every commercial solar project has storage associated with it,” says Anna. “Solar plus storage helps business owners reduce their peak demand charges, often a large component of commercial utility bills, because they can store energy and release it during peak demand times."

Domestic Production of Solar Components

With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act we’re expecting to see a real shift in the supplier landscape with increased domestic production of solar panels. This is beneficial for a variety of reasons: domestic production reduces transportation costs (both financially and in carbon emissions), brings jobs to the U.S., and gives us more control over humane practices and manufacturing techniques. With increased production, technology costs should come down as well, making solar even more accessible and attractive.  

As the solar technology improves, we’re able to fit more solar production in the same space, on smaller roofs or parcels of land. “Just a few years ago we were working with 375-watt panels,” says James, “and this year we’re installing 580-watt panels.” The rapid progression of commercial solar technology is part of what makes this industry so exciting. Looking back now on those early commercial projects, it’s easy to see how far we’ve come. Our largest array to date is a 7.2 megawatt project in Maine.  

Sopo-landfill-400x300.jpgThe South Portland capped landfill array provides a perfect example of the progress made, because it was built and designed in multiple phases. Whereas the 2017 phase used poured concrete to anchor the array, the 2022 phase used rock ballast – a much less carbon-intense way of securing the array, and one that relies on more locally sourced materials. 

“It really shows how we’ve improved over time,” says Anna, who went out to the landfill site her first day on the job. "That’s a fundamental tenant of ReVision - do an awesome job and learn from it and then do even better next time.”