In today’s interview we have Farhang Shayegan, owner of Solergy in McAllen, Texas.
| Can you introduce yourself to our audience?
My name is Farhang Shayegan. I’m the owner of Solergy in McAllen, Texas.
| This is your company? You’re the owner?
Yes, my daughter Nasim and I started the company in 2015.
| How did you end up with an idea to start a company? Were you already in this solar world or was it something new you wanted to try?
I had already been involved in the solar industry prior to starting the company. A friend of mine had established a solar panel manufacturing plant in Dallas, Texas around 2011. At the time, we were interested in exploring the retail side of the business. Unfortunately, my friend’s business did not succeed, but we were able to persevere, and our company has thrived ever since.
| So all things considered, it sounds like that was a good idea, to start a solar installation company in Texas?
Yes, I believe that we entered the solar industry at just the right time when we started our company back in 2015, and since then, we have witnessed the industry undergo significant changes and evolution. The current market trend confirms our foresight, and we are confident that solar energy will continue to grow in popularity in the coming years.
In fact, I anticipate that having solar panels on your roof will soon become the norm, and our company aims to be at the forefront of that moment. We are dedicated to making sustainable energy solutions accessible and affordable to all.
| Was it hard starting a company and getting your name out there? Is there a lot of competition in Texas?
Absolutely. The competition in Texas is quite fierce, with new companies popping up almost daily. While some companies specialize solely in sales, and others in installations, there are a select few, like Solergy, who are fully integrated, meaning we handle everything in-house. From sales to installation and ongoing maintenance, we take care of every aspect for our customers.
Starting any business is tough, and in our case, we had to navigate the licensing and certification requirements in addition to establishing our brand in a crowded market. We have intentionally limited our efforts to a hyper-local approach, serving customers within a 50-60 mile radius. We believe in maintaining a high level of quality and providing excellent customer service, which can be compromised when a company overextends itself. We have seen many other companies prioritize quantity over quality, but we are committed to doing things differently by focusing on our customers and delivering the best possible service.
| How many people are there in your company, besides you and your daughter?
We have a team of 15 people, including installers, salespeople, myself, and my daughter. While we may be small in size, I strongly believe that we are the best in terms of quality. I know that may sound bold, but we take great pride in the work that we do and always strive to provide our customers with the highest level of service possible. This is why we have chosen to pursue a small steady growth strategy. By keeping our team relatively small, we can focus on maintaining our high standards of quality and ensuring that every customer receives the best possible experience when working with us.
| How educated are the customers? Is it harder or easier to sell them in a solar system?
Our approach is to empower our clients with knowledge and make them aware of the long-term benefits of investing in solar systems. In terms of educations, we do encounter a range of customers, some who have done their research and other who are relatively new to the idea. However, we find that most of our clients are eager to learn more and make informed decisions. Our focus is not on pushing a sale, but rather on providing information that helps our clients make the best decision for their needs and budget.
| So you basically educate them first and then decide along with them, is that even a good idea for them or not?
We aim to be different. We focus on educating our clients, showing them the benefits of solar, and helping them make an informed decision. We believe that by doing so, we can create a better future for everyone. We take pride in being a company that operated with integrity and honesty, and we want to ensure that our clients are making a decision that is right for them and their unique circumstances.
| How does the process with your customer go, if someone walks through your door, looking to go solar?
When a potential customer walks through our doors or contacts us, we begin by discussing their yearly energy consumption. Once we have this information, we can provide them with different solar options and costs. If the customer is interested, we schedule a site survey to assess the location and determine the best possible solution. From there, we work with the customer to design, and install the system, ensuring that it meets their specific energy needs and goals.
Our company specializes in Solar Hybrid Systems, which make up about 70% of our installations. What is pretty cool about our show room is that it is actually an interactive showroom where we can demonstrate to our customers how our hybrid systems work. We can do a simulation of how the system would work during a power outage and show them how it all functions. This way, they can have a better understanding of the benefits and features of our systems.
| Are there any other services that you do, I mean, besides solar installations?
We try to stay focused and cover everything that’s related to solar, energy consumption and energy preservations. So we also do roofing, insulation, and even window upgrades if necessary.
We offer a holistic approach to solar solutions. Our aim is not to simply install a solar system and leave it at that, but rather address any underlying energy consumption issues our customers may be facing. By doing so, we empower the homeowner to maximize the benefits of their solar system to achieve optimal energy efficiency.
Also, in response to the increase demand in electric vehicles, we have expanded our services to include EV charger installation to our customers.
| You’ve been in business for how long?
We’ve had our company since 2015.
| Were there any significant changes you witnessed during this period? Something that maybe made your installations easier, harder… different?
Over the years we have witnessed a lot of technological advancements in the solar industry, which has made our installations more efficient and effective. However, there have been changes in marketing and baking sectors, which have a direct impact on our line of business. Bank terms have changed throughout the years, which has a significant impact on the savings that our customers receive. Which is why it is important to stay up-to-date with these changes and upgrades to provide the best possible service to our customers.
| What about the changes in technology? Is it becoming more affordable, maybe more efficient?
There hasn’t been a significant change in the affordability of solar or battery components over the past few years. However, we have seen a sharp increase in the cost of electrical components such as connectors, breaker boxes, and cables. Which have risen by as much as 300-400%. As far as solar panels, inverters, and batteries the prices have remained relatively stable.
| How many of these installations have you done? How many do you do on average?
On average, we complete around 115 installations per year. While this number may seem relatively small compared to other companies, we believe that it is important not to overextend ourselves. Quality is our top priority, and we want to ensure that each installation is done to the highest standards. Additionally, providing excellent service and support to our customers after installation is just as important as the installation itself.
| One solar installer I talked to recently said that they don’t do wind because it’s much more expensive when compared to solar. How are the things over there in Texas?
Yes, wind systems are generally more expensive to install and maintain than solar system. The cost of maintenance can be quite high. Unlike solar systems, wind turbines require regular maintenance to keep them functioning properly, such as greasing and oiling the generator every month as well are regular inspections and repairs. These maintenance cost add up over time.
| So, what about the future of your company? Do you have any plans besides this sort of steady growth we touched on?
We are always looking for ways to improve and expand our services. We believe that keeping up with the latest technology is key to achieving this. As technology evolves, we strive to stay ahead of the curve and offer our customers the most innovative solutions.
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For example, we started installing solar hybrid systems four years when no other company in Texas was installing them. And they now make up 70% of our installations.
As for future plans, we want to continue our steady growth and maintain our position as the leading solar provider in South Texas ensuring we maintain our high standards of quality and customer satisfaction.
| What would you advise someone who is looking to install a solar system? What’s something to pay attention to before starting this process?
My advice to anyone looking to go solar is to do their own research first. It is important to research the companies in your area you are considering. Specially to read their reviews on platforms such as Google, Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Facebook. Unfortunately, there are many bad actors in the industry, so it’s crucial to make sure the company you choose has a good track record and reputation.
We always encourage homeowners to get at least two to three proposals to compare them. Don’t just compare the price, also compare the quality of the components and installation. It’s a good idea to ask for referrals so you can contact previous customers and ask about their experience with the company. By doing your due diligence, you can avoid headaches down the road and ensure that you get a high-quality solar system that meets your needs.
| Speaking of doing a good job, do you get calls from customers asking you to fix something another installer messed up?
Yes, we do receive calls from customers who ask us to fix issues caused by another installer. Unfortunately, it happens quite often, and it’s not good for the industry as a whole. Many companies are only interested in making a sale and installing the system, without providing proper maintenance and servicing. This can lead to problems down the line and customers are left disappointed.
Fixing other companies’ mistakes takes up about 30% of my time, and while it does bring in more work for us, it’s not a sustainable model for the industry. That’s why we place a lot of emphasis on education and servicing after installation. We want to make sure our customers are happy and their systems are working properly for years to come.