Matt De La Torre and Isaac Gamez, Renova Energy

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?

Matt: I graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 2009 and I returned to the Coachella Valley, but the recession had halted nearly all construction and civil engineering work. I stumbled upon Renova Energy and began looking more into the solar industry and realized it was something that had so much potential.

Issac: I started in the beginning with the owner and founder, Vincent Battaglia. I knew Vincent’s business model would create growth and opportunities, and now I’m Chief Operations Officer.

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

Matt: The substantial growth that has already occurred, but also the potential growth that is still yet to come. While we have made tremendous advancements in technology and financial opportunities for customers to make solar accessible to most of the population. There is still an abundance of untapped residential and commercial customers out there that have not yet captured their energy needs from the cheapest and most profuse energy source on the planet, the sun.

Isaac: The problem-solving has been my favorite part of this industry. Matt’s right — the technology has advanced so much in the last 15 years, but new technology has always been met with resistance from utility companies and even skeptical politicians. Considering the obstacles we’ve faced, solar has overcome incredible odds.

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

Matt: The question, “Does solar really work?” that I still get on a monthly basis still surprises me. The fact that more people aren’t aware of the simplicity and power of solar photovoltaics is difficult to believe.

Isaac: How quickly batteries are advancing, just like the photovoltaic technology in solar modules.

What are your solar predictions for the next 10 years?

Matt: Battery capacity and power output, as well as inclusion rates, will all rise in the next 10 years. Batteries will be able to capture a majority of the solar production and deliver a majority of the homes needs which will allow more homes to become much, much less reliant on the utility grid.

Isaac: Effective and safe recycling programs for modules and batteries coming to their end-of-life.

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

Matt and Isaac: One item we have particularly focused on to set our company apart is quality. We only install the best materials and maximize the lifespan of a PV system. That being said, we noticed some of the industry standard materials did not have the durability and longevity that we were hoping to achieve with our installations. For instance, when we need to install conduit on a tiled roof, it is common practice to use pieces of 2″ x 4″ wood and glue. We were not confident these materials would hold up for 25+ years if they were exposed on the roof for that amount of time. So we decided to invent and design an aluminum product that could be mounted on a tile roof without having to use tools. This would save us from buying wood, cutting it and using glue, so it saved time and cost for us in the long run. The finished product was a much better looking and better functioning solution that we felt very confident would work as long as the house was standing.

How are you helping to improve the industry?

Matt: We try to be as transparent with our customers as possible to manage their expectations and leave them with only good things to say about the industry. Being honest with the customer in our initial sales process, utilizing quality products that are built to last (such as the Conduit Tile Hook), over-engineering so that conductors and electrical parts last longer, and a high-quality install where we ensure our systems are double-checked and approved, we truly go above and beyond to educate and please customers so that we gain a new solar advocate with every installation.

Isaac: Encouraging our employees — especially our installers, techs, and engineers — to come up with more efficient ways to improve the technology, even if it’s a small change to our everyday business. The happier we make our customers, the more we can show people just how much they can benefit from solar.