ReVision Energy is headed into our 5th year of supporting the Intersolar North America Solar Games. Like the Hunger Games but less lethal, more renewable! Eight installation teams from all over North America compete to build a solar + battery storage system in the middle of the conference hall; they are judged on installation quality, safety, speed, and efficiency. Travis Genatossio, a commercial project manager based out of our Brentwood branch, has been involved since the beginning, and looped in Chris Pamboukes, Master Electrician, to help as a judge.
Organized by Portland-based Diversified Communications, Intersolar North America is one of the largest conferences in the country around solar and energy storage. Diversified Communications partnered with ReVision Energy in 2018 as the investor of the large-scale solar array at the Brunswick Landing, so when they were looking to launch the Solar Games in 2019, they asked ReVision for technical help. Travis stepped in to help organize and later brought in Chris.
"I was honored that Travis should ask me to help facilitate," says Chris, "because frankly, I’d help Travis anywhere. Travis really sets the bar for teamwork, helping others, getting it done and getting it done right.
I asked him, 'Why’d you pick me? There are so many people that should go over there.' He reminded me that on his first day working with me at ReVision, I kept telling him about my latest scheme: 'Solar Olympics; International Solar Teams Competing for Best in Class.' Ten years later and here we are, a version of my Solar Olympics are underway at the 2024 North America Intersolar Games Competition in San Diego, CA. Who knows what they’ll look like in ten more?"
Chris and Travis are on the advisory board, providing consultation on all technical aspects of the Games.
"During the early parts of the planning," explains Travis, "we help vet the equipment and manufacturer sponsors that will be used during the competition such as the solar panels, inverters, racking, tools, etc. The other critical part of our role is to be responsible for making sure all the necessary tools and installation materials (conduit, fittings, wire, fasteners, hardware, etc.) are prepped and organized for the teams. The teams come to the conference from all over the country, so it’s important we have everything ready and available for them to complete an entire installation in the middle of a huge conference hall."
Although the Games are technically a competition, there's such a high level of teamwork and comradery among the installers that it's more of a celebration of the industry, rather than a cutthroat challenge.
"It’s just fun to get together with other installers from all over the country," says Travis. "The solar industry is unique compared to other construction services and there’s definitely a high level of comradery amongst the installer community. It’s great to share stories and be exposed to new installation techniques and tips."
Yes, it's a conference, but because everyone is focused on the same mission - installing solar and eradicating fossil fuels - it doesn't feel like a standard trade show. There's a sense of shared urgency and passion at the event.
"It’s easy relate to the other installers because we’re all in this together," says Chris. "We clearly have shared challenges and opportunities. We all know that we share our unwavering obligation to the planet and to future generations to fight climate change. It’s such a daunting task, it can make you go a little crazy sometimes! So when everybody does it together, it sheds light on the shared camaraderie and common purpose. I experience this binding force of camaraderie here at ReVision every day so it’s no surprise that there’s a bunch of Solar Champions and chuckleheads just like us all over the country that share our passion and enthusiasm for making the world a better place."
The Games require a lot of supplies, because teams arrive from all over the country to compete, unable to bring their usual tools. As employee-owners of a Certified B Corp, Chris and Travis are focused on making the Solar Games as sustainable as possible so that companies can share best practices and friendly competition without waste.
The solar panels and technology used in the Games are donated afterwards to nonprofit Twende Solar to be used in projects for under-resourced communities. But what about all of the tools and other materials required for assembling a solar array?
"Historically we would try to arrange, gather, and organize everything once we arrived at the show, having to source everything locally near the venue," says Travis. "That’s always felt a little hectic and disorganized."
"We maintained all of last year’s tools and maintained a great deal of the parts and materials," adds Chris. "We had everything sent to the Brentwood warehouse will be stored for future use in the games. We keep an inventory of all equipment and we are doing everything we can to reduce, reuse, and recycle all parts that can be so that we can be environmentally conscious."
Just like Chris's original idea for the "Olympics of Solar" the Intersolar Solar Games also promote renewable energy and solar teamwork across the country. By getting a real-time display of solar installations, visitors to Intersolar (and everyone who watches them streamed at home) can see "behind the scenes" of the renewable energy industry.
"The Games promote the actual humanity of the solar industry," explains Chris, "beyond all those shiny parts and materials. Every single one of these arrays gets installed by someone who chose to make a living doing good work for their community and for the world. It’s hard work, but it’s fun, enjoyable, and rewarding, especially because you’re doing it with a team."
At the Solar Games, eight teams of dedicated installers put their passion and craft on display for everyone in friendly competition to prove they’ve got what it takes to build like the best. "That’s pretty awesome stuff," says Chris.
The 2024 Intersolar Solar Games will take place January 17-19 in San Diego. Follow our social media channels for live updates from Travis and Chris!