In residential markets, Ecolibrium Solar’s customers are the companies that sell the entire solar system to the home owner. These can be large national installers, such as Vivint Solar, or regional companies. With commercial properties, it’s typically developers or investors who seek to put large power installations on tops of buildings.
“Where our material is better than the competition,” said Jan Willem van der Werff, Ecolibrium Solar CEO, “is that we make the installation process as easy as possible for our installers.”
To appreciate how significant that is, consider the traditional way of putting solar panels on the roof before Ecolibrium Solar. An installer working 20 or more feet off the ground pulleys up lengths of metal rails which must be cut to fit before they can be installed. The last thing anyone would want to do is saw metal standing on a 45-degree pitched roof.
“We’ve come up with a technology that allows solar panels to be installed without rails,” van der Werff said. “Our engineering team is constantly looking at how we can help installers do their jobs smarter, faster, and with less hassle.”
As the manufacturer of the installation hardware, Ecolibrium Solar is deeply involved in the overall design of its customers’ solar installations. Even though the company’s racking systems are less than 5 percent of the total costs, Ecolibrium Solar impacts more than 50 percent of the total cost—the planning, labor, and permitting—in a huge way.
“We are looking at how we can improve the front end of process map, not just through hardware, but through building a scalable platform,” van der Werff said.
Sunny Days Ahead
The overall accelerator for solar is to continue to take cost out throughout the value chain. Once the price of solar is at parity or less than the cost of fossil fuels, the politics of energy can become less of an influence.
“The minute you talk about solar, regardless of your affiliation, you lose half your audience,” van der Werff said. “Whereas, once solar is the cheapest source of power, you don’t have to talk about all the other things. Everyone agrees that spending less is better.”
Today, less than 1 percent of U.S. total energy consumption is provided by solar. “That tells me that businesses like ours have another 99 percent go gain,” van der Werff said. “If we were to capture all the energy of the sun, one and a half hours would supply all the energy that all the humans on the entire globe consume in a year. We are in an incredible time where everything is coming together. With the drive to deliver solar at lower coast, we are going to see an acceleration of scale that entirely opens of new fields of how to deal with energy.”
Ecolibrium Solar has created more than 35 jobs, with another 60 to 70 people in Ohio involved in manufacturing Ecolibrium Solar’s products.
“We grew rapidly and initially started working with our vendor base here in Ohio because they are so close,” van der Werff said. “We have been surprised by the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing compared with overseas. That is something we sometimes under-estimate. There is a whole bunch that we really do better here. We need to look at the success stories and repeat them.”