Nils Behn, Aegis Renewable 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?

Fresh out of college, my now-wife and I moved to Hells Canyon in Idaho and homesteaded off the grid for eight years. I built our straw-bale house there and mounted four solar panels in a big Douglas Fir tree to provide power to the house. Thirty years later, I now have a much better understanding of the value of building codes.

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

I have always lived my life with the ethos that whatever I do needs to have a net positive contribution to the wellbeing of our planet. Working in the solar industry, we are all fulfilling that goal in spades. That is my favorite part.

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

I would have expected there to be more consolidation of the industry. The sharks gobbling up the minnows. But, in fact, small- and medium-sized solar companies are competing and winning.

What are your solar predictions for the next 10 years?

With the national sentiment and our leaders finally taking the climate emergency seriously, we are going to see a huge spike in the growth of our industry. The electrification of transportation, heating and cooling will drive existing customers to expand their systems or join community solar projects and the mainstreaming of the technology will make solar ubiquitous.

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

Aegis was able to keep all employees on staff during the pandemic and our transition to the virtual workspace was fairly seamless all while having one of our best years ever.

How are you helping to improve the industry?

Aegis’ laser focus on customer service, quality and responsible project siting is helping to counterbalance the “turn and burn” mentality of a few, thankfully rare, bad actors.

What was it like entering the market in 2011?

It was exciting and exhausting. Building the business from the ground up allowed us to draw on the best parts of what we had learned from our years in the industry and remove the chaff. Solar was finally becoming more widely accepted, viable and bankable and we knew that if we grew the business carefully we could make it a success.

How has your solar business changed from when it started?

We began doing commercial solar and wind projects. Within a year or two we transitioned entirely to solar due to the reality of where the market was at the time.

Ten years on, what advice would you give yourself or the company back in 2011?

Grow your team slowly and surround yourself with talented team members but remember that a toxic talent is never worth keeping. Be flexible and nimble in an ever-changing market. Stay positive and have fun.