Traveling through the south in the summer of 2007, I realized a few things. For one, it was hot. Really hot. Second, I was really tired of driving. That day I’d made it from Savannah, Georgia up to the middle of North Carolina. There wasn’t a soul to be found on the state road I was driving on, so I pulled over and got out. I gazed up at the sun, then down at the asphalt and stood there in a mixture of awe and dehydration for a few minutes. At the side of the road was an abandoned service station – the heat slowly slithering off the top of the old black roof.
Though I grew up in Chicago and am no stranger to what muggy feels like, this was oppressive – the equivalent perhaps of being inside someone’s mouth, with a fever. I started the car again, the heat and sun still on my mind and drove through the scrappy outskirts of Durham, looking for signs of minor league baseball and Tim Robbins. Though I found neither, I parked my car in a shaded garage, 6 floors above ground – enough altitude for a view of tarred rooftops stretching miles into the horizon. The panorama was a mirage of pale grey roofline and hazy sky. At that moment, I began thinking about why it was that none of these properties had solar panels on them.
I began researching tax credits and payback periods for solar hot water systems and photovoltaics in my own state of Oregon. I was blown away by what I found. Just a month earlier, the Oregon legislature had passed a huge bill to spur solar implementation. They offer a 50% tax credit for businesses installing solar equipment. Couple this with rapid depreciation, an incentive from the energy trust of Oregon, and a federal tax credit, and there is zero net cost after 1 year. Zero cost! What?! Every single business in the state should be getting in on this.
My old friend Dave Llorens called me an hour later, explaining he was at a career crossroads and didn’t know which path to take. I explained the solar incentives passed in Oregon and urged him to look into options in California. Perhaps we could form our own solar water heating business? To do that, we figured the best way to learn all that we’d need to learn about solar was to communicate it to everyone else who was also interested. A month later, solarpowerrocks.com was launched.
While I was still finishing my master’s in I/O psychology, Dave landed a job providing solar solutions to San Francisco area businesses and homeowners. Utilizing his honesty, humor (I argue this is a skill), intellect, and persistence, he has become the best salesperson in the company in less than 6 months. Now that I have completed my master’s program, I am now an independent solar energy consultant and a human resource management consultant. How about that?