People of the 10th anniversary Top Solar Contractors list: Mona Reese, Brightstar Solar

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 into solar?

Jon and I completed the photovoltaic program at SUNY Ulster during weekends while working at our corporate jobs. We had a solar background, but we wanted a real apprenticeship. We quit work on the same day and then drove cross-country to California to volunteer at Grid Alternatives, a nonprofit that installs solar on low-income households. The had four offices at the time (Bay, Central Valley (Fresno), San Diego and Greater LA) and we signed up for every volunteer opportunity at each of the offices. The volunteer positions were in high demand and you didn’t get chosen for every project that you volunteered on. We would be volunteering north of the Bay one day and we would drive through the night to work near the border of Mexico next day. We eventually became team leaders and were training new volunteers on how to install solar. One of the construction managers even brought us into their office and taught us about design, permitting and engineering. We brought that knowledge back to Massachusetts where we started Brightstar Solar.

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

We are part of the solution, not the problem. Our customers save money and do something that’s good for the planet – it’s a no-brainer. After 12 years running this business, we (and our crew) still get excited each and every time we turn on a new installation for a customer and show them the meter running backwards.

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

The number of companies who continue to employ aggressive sales tactics. The numbers speak for themselves so we’ve never understood why companies feel the need to put on the hard sell, use all sorts of mysterious “rebates,” or extremely optimistic production estimates.

What are your solar predictions for the next 10 years?

We’re obviously moving toward a greater deployment of storage solutions. This feels similar to the slope of the PV module uptake curve 10-15 years ago. As PV prices continue to move down, there will be increased competition and the market will move toward commoditization, which will probably open the door for some consolidation in the installation world.

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

The same way we’ve stood out for 12 years, which is having some of the best and most experienced employees in the business and a very high degree of owner involvement. We tell the truth, stand by our work and keep everyone happy.

How are you helping to improve the industry?

We are helping to give the industry a better name through our honesty, laid-back approach to sales and commitment to following through on every single one of our obligations.