In today’s interview we have Christian Blaser, COO of Powered Alliance Solar.
| Can you introduce yourself and tell us something about yourself?
My name is Christian Blaser. I’m the COO of Powered Alliance Solar. We’re a full EPC in Boise, Idaho. We handle installation, operations and sales.
I’ve personally installed over a hundred jobs, and managed over a thousand. I have a lot of experience in this industry as well as this market. So, any question that you ask me, I should be able to answer it.
| So you went to work for the company straight after finishing college?
Yeah, I did. I played college football at Boise State as well as Eastern Oregon University. COVID took me out of my last year of football, so I figured I’d get right to work and lucky enough, landed in the solar industry, and it’s just been upwards and onwards from there.
Initially, I worked on the permitting side, gaining a thorough understanding of the paperwork involved. As our sales increased, I transitioned to becoming an apprentice, working alongside our experienced journeyman on various job sites and participating in installations. I dedicated a couple of years to this role.
However, as our company grew, I shifted my focus to business development. My responsibilities expanded to include networking, building teams, and overseeing training programs. Additionally, I played a significant role in implementing a CRM system, specifically Salesforce, which has greatly improved our operational efficiency. Our continuous efforts revolve around upgrading all aspects of our work and striving for increased efficiency year after year.
| That’s awesome, sounds like you were able to put your college degree to work?
Yeah, I have a college degree in business administration, and my experience in football programs has taught me valuable lessons about managing a team and creating efficiency. Just like in football, where you need a well-defined hierarchy and specialized roles, successful businesses also require delegation and talented individuals excelling in their departments. This industry is exciting because it combines my educational background and my passion for building cohesive and successful businesses.
Without proper processes, a company can outgrow itself and face challenges. Many companies struggle because they excel in sales but lack efficiency in operations and installation, which can become a bottleneck and lead to failure. In our case, we have successfully scaled all departments by implementing standardized operating procedures and utilizing a CRM and other necessary software. It’s crucial for everyone to be well-educated in their respective roles to uphold the reputation of our business.
It’s important to recognize that when a company goes under, it not only harms the business itself but also has a negative impact on the entire market and industry. I’ve observed this firsthand in the solar industry and it’s crucial to stay vigilant and learn from the experiences of other companies. By keeping a pulse on the industry and actively seeking knowledge, such as attending conventions and networking with professionals from different markets, I strive to make informed decisions and anticipate potential challenges. Understanding trends and developments in leading markets like California helps me prepare for similar situations in my own market.
| You said that Powered Alliance is a family owned business, can you talk more about this bond and the way it affects the way the company does business?
Yes. At Powered Alliance, we have a strong sense of being a family-owned and operated business. We consider ourselves a big family with close-knit relationships, including friends and extended family members. This unique dynamic has allowed us to establish both internal and external networks, all working towards a shared vision. We understand that our individual efforts directly impact our family members within the company. It’s a powerful motivator for each of us to give our best because we genuinely care about one another, our industry, and the success of our company.
| You basically started with a great team. Do you believe that it’s one of the biggest challenges in any business?
Absolutely! I don’t know how other companies can operate without having this sense of ownership and accountability. We have numerous reasons for caring deeply and persevering through challenges. It has proven to be immensely advantageous for us.
It’s a fantastic place to work. It’s not always perfect, as no workplace is, but being a family-owned company brings us closer together and fosters intimate communication. The atmosphere here is really great. We’re even venturing into content creation, so we’ll be sharing videos and posts to give people a glimpse of what it’s like to work with us and have us handle their projects. It’s important to us that people know about our work and our reputation before we approach them. We want to establish that connection and familiarity with our potential clients.
| Can you tell me something about the early stages of the company? From what I’ve read on the website, it’s “only” six years old.
Yes. In 2017, Powered Alliance Solar started primarily as a sales organization in the solar industry. Typically, in solar, there are two main parties involved: the sales organization and the EPC (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction).
Initially, we subcontracted our installations to external parties. However, as we grew, we realized that subcontracting presented risks and limitations. To mitigate those risks and have better control and quality assurance, we made the decision to bring all operations in-house and become a fully integrated EPC company, handling all departments internally. From there, we have been focused on steady growth and ensuring that every department receives the necessary attention and resources. We have implemented protocols and systems to prevent any issues from falling through the cracks when sales increase, such as scaling our installation department accordingly. This level of integration and coordination is something that only fully integrated companies can achieve, and I have personally witnessed its benefits.
| And how big is your entire team?
Yeah, we handle all departments in-house. We have both W2 employees and 1099 contractors, similar to a brokerage model. When you consider our internal team and external dealers, our sales force fluctuates between 30 to 50 individuals, depending on the time of year. It’s normal to experience some turnover and attrition, especially with door-to-door sales. However, we maintain a consistent team of around 25 members on average.
The winter season in Idaho tends to slow down due to snowfall, making it challenging to perform rooftop installations. Despite the seasonal variations, we navigate through it effectively and continue to operate smoothly.
| Do you have a lot of competition over there? Was it hard penetrating the market and getting your name out there?
Yeah, there’s definitely competition in the solar industry. Every year more companies try to enter the market, while others go out of business. But, that’s okay. Solar is a relatively new industry in Idaho, and there’s still a significant potential for growth. The rate of homes being built in Idaho is higher than the rate of homes adopting solar, so there’s ample opportunity for market penetration.
Solar is not just a passing trend; it’s a revolution in the energy sector. It empowers homeowners to take ownership of their power generation instead of relying solely on utilities. Utility rates are only going to increase, making solar even more appealing. We have been in the industry for six years and we believe in maintaining a positive image for the entire solar industry. We hope that all companies act responsibly, and if any bad actors exist, they will quickly exit the market.
| I see that Idaho is also a good place to be when it comes to solar incentives. Can you talk a bit about the options for someone looking to go solar in Idaho?
Yeah, there are several incentives available for solar, particularly in residential installations. To get a comprehensive view of the incentive structure, you can visit desire.com and filter it for Idaho.
In the residential sector, Idaho offers a state tax credit that amounts to around $1,400 over three years, providing an additional incentive. Additionally, there is a federal tax credit of 30%, which will remain in effect for the next 10 years. These are the main incentives we discuss, although there are others for agricultural land or business owners.
Some people choose to go solar primarily for these incentives, especially if they have substantial funds they can write off. However, we recommend consulting a licensed CPA to determine your eligibility. It’s important to note that the benefits of going solar extend beyond monthly utility savings. The tax credits allow you to potentially write off a significant amount, up to $10,000 or more over the next 10 years, depending on your system’s total cost. You can apply for a 30% credit on the entire system cost and spread it over a decade. It’s truly an exciting opportunity.
| Do you offer any other services besides solar installations?
As a solar company, we offer a range of services to meet our customers’ needs. In addition to solar installations, we also provide battery systems, generators, re-roof insulation, and even kitchen remodels if required. While our primary focus is on solar, we have the flexibility and expertise to handle various projects. We hold general contracting licenses, enabling us to offer comprehensive solutions to our customers.
Our goal is to provide them with a seamless and satisfying experience by taking care of all aspects of the project in-house. This ensures effective communication, streamlined operations, and a sense of accountability throughout the process. This integrated approach sets us apart and contributes to our success in the Idaho market.
| What makes you stand out amongst the crowd?
There’s a significant presence of national companies trying to enter our market. While I don’t doubt their competence, our advantage lies in being local. When it comes to long-term maintenance and support for your solar system, which can last over 25 years, we’re right here, close to home. If you reach out with an issue today, we can strive to have someone there to address it as soon as tomorrow. We prioritize responsiveness and efficiency in our operations.
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Since we work internally, any communication within our company is seamlessly coordinated, avoiding any potential communication challenges. This local approach sets us apart from national companies. While they may have a bigger brand name, a quick look at their reviews reveals more negative feedback, which is often a result of serving a larger customer base. In contrast, we are focused on providing the best service right here in our local market, and I believe we excel in doing so.
| It seems like you’re taking things slow and steady. What about the future plans of the company?
Initially we had ambitious plans for rapid expansion, but we soon realized that expanding too quickly can lead to weaknesses in the foundation. At the start, we were installing solar systems in multiple states, but it proved to be inefficient and challenging to reach customers located 10 hours away.
Consequently, we made the decision to pull back and refocus our efforts on Idaho, where we excel and have the most expertise. Our aim was to become specialists in everything related to solar in this state and develop our offerings to their fullest potential. Once we have established a strong foothold and perfected our operations here, we will consider entering other markets. However, our current top priority is to prioritize and serve the Idaho market effectively.
| What about solar in general, especially in Idaho? You said you’re seeing an increase in demand for it. Do you expect it to be in the upcoming years?
Oh yeah, the growth in Boise, Idaho is undeniable, and it’s not just limited to the city but encompasses the entire state. Idaho has experienced significant migration patterns, and more people are discovering its hidden charm. As the population increases, so does the demand on the energy grid, leading to higher energy prices.
This price escalation is not solely due to population growth but also a result of shifting energy consumption patterns. With the rise of electric appliances and electric vehicles (EVs), household energy consumption is on the rise. As more homes are built and more people move to Idaho, the infrastructure must expand, and homeowners end up shouldering the cost. This is where solar power becomes increasingly viable.
Another factor influencing rising prices is that utility companies receive less revenue from homeowners who have gone solar. To compensate for this loss, they shift the burden to homeowners who are still solely dependent on the grid. It’s becoming increasingly clear that solar energy is the future, and the more we advocate for it, the more it will proliferate. With the continuous influx of new residents, the adoption of solar power is inevitable. While the grid remains essential, solar offers the advantage of empowering homeowners to own their power. Unlike traditional energy sources, solar energy provides a fixed cost, and once the system is paid off, homeowners enjoy virtually free electricity. After all, the sun isn’t going anywhere, and if it does, we’ll have much bigger concerns to worry about.