Ellen Castle, A1A Solar Contracting

For the 10th anniversary of the Top Solar Contractors list, we’re sharing Q&A’s with the people who make the industry run every day. Read more interviews here.

How’d you get started in solar?

I have always been interested in renewable energy. I knew that to change industries ,I would have to “upskill” and come to the table with some knowledge of solar. After doing some research, I discovered the NABCEP certification was valued in the industry. I took a weeklong, hands-on class at the US Solar Institute in Ft. Lauderdale to get my NABCEP PV Associate Certificate. I knew I would need the hands on, “butt in seat” approach since solar was a complete change from my industry and more technical. It was like drinking out of a fire hose!

Why did you decide to leave a 20-year career to work in the solar industry? 

I am concerned about the environment and climate change. I wanted to do something that could have a positive impact. Both my parents (91-year-olds) are lifelong learners. They are still very engaged in intellectual topics they enjoy. With them as my role models, I also wanted to push myself to learn something new. I also wanted to show my 20-something children that change, even in the twilight of your career, is possible.

What’s your favorite part about being in the solar industry? 

Helping educate my community (homeowners and commercial customers) on the benefits of solar PV and the positive part they can play in creating a more sustainable future.

What has surprised you the most about the solar industry in the last 10 years?

I have only been in it for two years, but what I have observed is constant change, whether it is due to new products coming on the market or having to respond to our local market dynamics — COVID not excluded! Never a dull moment; keeps my brain churning and learning. Very exciting!

What are your solar predictions for the next 10 years? 

More change! I think it is going to be an exciting ride with new technologies and innovations that are going to help us achieve the needed GHG reductions to stem the tide of climate change. I have great faith in the U.S’s ability to innovate and invent.

How’d you/your company stand out in the last year? 

Our owner, Pete Wilking, did a fantastic job navigating the “COVID rapids.” I really appreciated how open and transparent he was with the employees about the actions he was taking and why, so we could come out the other side of the pandemic and thrive. We canvassed and drummed up leads from whatever sources we could. We didn’t lose sight of the importance of quality in the sales process — educating our customers and helping them find the best solution to meet their goals or completing an installation. Quality has always been of utmost importance.

How are you helping to improve the industry? 

Commercial clients come to us thinking about solar PV without the context of sustainability. I am educating them on the importance of having a sustainability and/or resiliency plan, of which solar PV plays an important role. On a more personal level, integrity is very important to me and I think my customers feel that and appreciate it.