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047: Jeff Spies, The solar historian

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"PV has allowed me to make a contribution that matters to me...the work that I've done is purely a function of seeing what I think needs to be done and seeing that nobody else is doing it."

Welcome to Episode 47 of SunCast. I'm so glad you you're back with me again this week! I'm just back from an amazing time at SPI 2017, and I'm exhausted, but wanted to make sure we are staying on track with the next episode here as we continue to bring you actionable content focused on helping you grow as a solar leader and professional!

Today we'll be spending time with someone who is VERY acquainted with the Solar Pioneers and their stories!  My friend, and fellow podcaster, Jeff Spies, has been in the solar industry for nearly exactly the same amount of time I have (that's 11 yrs and counting!) and I don't think Anybody has spent as much time as he has thinking about how to tell the story of the dawn of the Solar PV Industry and the vanguards who ushered it out of obscurity and into mainstream. His Solar Pioneer parties are legendary, so stay tuned to hear how you can attend the 3rd and final one this November!

In today's episode, we get into detail about:

  • Jeff's journey into solar, from his early days at AEE to now
  • What exactly is this Solar Pioneers party he keeps talking about on LinkedIn and Facebook and why you should attend?
  • Which contractor trade Jeff expects solar to most resemble as it continues to evolve
  • His take on Hot or Not, and of course, books, lessons learned and much more.

I hope some of this resonates with you. I am queuing up more tactical episodes to keep you sharp, and I'd love to know what themes or areas of interest you're keen to learn more about!? What other problems or roadblocks can we help you remove? Would you please reach out to me to let me know how I can help either here on SunCast or even offline? I would love to hear from you. 

And, of course, If YOU have someone or something you think should be on Suncast, you can shoot me an email, a LinkedIn message, or even just pop over to the website and leave me a quick Voicemail, right from your smartphone! That website is www.mysuncast.com and email is nico@mysuncast.com.

This episode is brought to you in partnership with Solrates.com, the fast and Free online platform for providing your commercial customers with a credible lease financing proposal. If you have projects over $100K value, and you'd like to see how Solrates can help You quickly and easily deliver a financing proposal to your customers, please reach out to me directly for an invitation code to join the platform.

Thanks again for taking the time to be here.  I hope you enjoy this week’s episode of SunCast, with Jeff Spies of Quick Mount PV.

If you like what you hear, or read, please SHARE it!

Resources from today's Show:

Follow Jeff on Twitter, Facebook (Pioneers) or Facebook personal page
Or on LinkedIn

Jeff's own podcast: Quick Mount PV Solar Roof Talk

Learn more & Register for the Solar Pioneer Party (you'll need to hit me up for the "password" required to register)

Praise for the upcoming documentary and the Pioneer Party:

Books Mentioned:

What color is your parachute - Richard Bolles

Centeniel, Hawaii, and The Source  - all by James Mitchner


About the Host of SunCast:

Nico Johnson is the creator and host of SunCast, a regular conversation with Solar Industry professionals who are leading in emerging solar markets.  The content of the show is geared towards listeners looking for insights on where the markets are headed, how to position themselves or their companies, and what today's market leaders do to stay ahead of the pack.

Nico is a 10-year veteran of the solar industry, having led development in the US and Latin America for global companies like Trina Solar and Conergy.  He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and is considered one of the market's leading experts on solar PV expansion in the region.

Nico can be reached on Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/in/nickalus

or by email nico@mysuncast.com

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046: Pam Cargill, Chaos Analyst

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"We want to take solar mainstream. If I continue to help people communicate their vision, how they run their companies, and communicate with each other better, then I can help make that happen."

Welcome to Episode 46 of SunCast.

Today, we will be spending time with my new friend, Pamela Cargill of Chaolysti Consulting.  You should have a listen if you're interested in:

  • Insights into how small companies prepare for growth in solar
  • Solid tools Pam uses to coach her clients along that path
  • What it's like leaving corporate to run your own consulting business, from a woman's perspective
  • And about a dozen other insights gleaned from this hour with Pam

Pam is an often quiet but ever-present force in the California solar market (and increasingly beyond!) and cut her teeth more than a decade ago schlepping modules and working on a crew installing in the Northeast. She then moved up to the marketing and operations teams at Sungevity before stepping out on her own. So, she understands a thing or two about companies that scale, common misconceptions, and how to frame the conversation.

Hey, speaking of which, we would love to know, what are you struggling with? What one thing is in your way that you'd like help solving? Are there areas specific to your business, or the industry as a whole, that you wish you knew how to do better, or where you're getting stuck? Let me know; I love brainstorming ideas and helping people think through these types of problems. And if I don't know it, I just might know someone who does, and we'll get them on the show!

If you'd like to schedule a 1:1 call w/me, you can now do that at www.callnico.com

You can also just shoot me an email, a LinkedIn message, or pop over to the website and leave me a quick Voicemail, right from your smartphone! That website is www.mysuncast.com and email is nico@mysuncast.com.

Resources from today's Show:

Follow Pam on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn personal & Business Page.
and of course on her blog, Chaolysti.

Books Mentioned:

Implementing Value Pricing - Roland J Baker
Start with Why - Simon Sinek
Good to Great - Jim Collins

Shout out to Barry Cinnamon's episode with Pam a couple of yrs ago - much more succinct intro and explanation of what Pam does!

Running A Successful Solar Business With Pamela Cargill by The Energy Show

About the Host of SunCast:

Nico Johnson is the creator and host of SunCast, a regular conversation with Solar Industry professionals who are leading in emerging solar markets.  The content of the show is geared towards listeners looking for insights on where the markets are headed, how to position themselves or their companies, and what today's market leaders do to stay ahead of the pack.

Nico is a 10-year veteran of the solar industry, having led development in the US and Latin America for global companies like Trina Solar and Conergy.  He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and is considered one of the market's leading experts on solar PV expansion in the region.

Nico can be reached on Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/in/nickalus

or by email nico@mysuncast.com

045: Unlocking Solar Capital in Latin America (LIVE)

"We have made a commitment to clean, reliable and fairly-priced electricity, and to electrify every home & business in every locality we enter." - Andy Bindea, Sigora International

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Welcome to Episode 45 of SunCast.

We're here to help you unlock your potential as a leader in the solar industry.

The recent Solar Pioneers Series we have begun, and some upcoming series on Solar Storage, Understanding Solar Finance, and more are aimed at helping you unlock the potential stored in the wisdom of Other people's struggles, growth and success stories, so I hope you keep coming back for more! 

Today, we'll take another pause in the Solar Pioneers series, returning to Latin America and a discussion I recorded live at the SolarPlaza Unlocking Solar Capital event in Miami back in June.

The first segment of this week's show (about 11 minutes) is from the "Keys to unlocking Capital for the Offgrid Market" panel moderated by Robert Constantino, with guests

JUAN FERMÍN RODRIGUEZ
CEO & CO-FOUNDER /// KINGO ENERGY

JOSÉ ORDÓÑEZ
CO-FOUNDER /// HYBRICO ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES

ANDY BINDEA
FOUNDER & CEO /// SIGORA INTERNATIONAL

ANNE GERSET
SENIOR IMPACT INVESTMENT MANAGER /// ENGIE

FERNANDO ALVARADO
PRESIDENT & CEO - SUSTAINABLE ENERGY CENTRAL AMERICA

They discussed:

  • How to obtain financing for off-grid projects

  • Keys to making off-grid business models bankable and best practices in risk mitigation

  • Opportunities for telecom integration in Latin America and possibilities for PAYG business model

  • Overview of business models with potential in mini-grid and off-grid segments

I wish I had recorded the whole thing, but hopefully the bits we got were insightful!

And the second segment of the show (about 30 min) is from a session we called

CEO Spotlight: Two Off-grid companies with vastly different approach to the market
Andy Bindea and Juan Fermin tell-all with Nico Johnson

It's a candid live session with 2 previous guests of the show, Episodes 031 & 032 respectively.  These are two of the smartest and hardest-working young entrepreneurs I've had the pleasure to interview, and they've both raised a lot of money!  I hope you enjoy this unscripted free-form session where I get into the differences between their two approaches to building an off-grid solar company in Latam.

I hope you enjoy both segments, and that you consider attending a future SolarPlaza conference.  Thanks again to SolarPlaza for all the support and for letting me run around like a reporter at this event.

Also mentioned in the show, SPI is in a couple of weeks!
Let's meet up! I'll be attending the annual Tweetup put on by my friend Tor Valenza, aka Solar Fred, and Kiterocket

Tue, September 12, 2017
5:00 PM – 6:30 PM PDT

LOCATION
Flex House (Booth 6340)
Mandalay Bay Convention Center

http://bit.ly/spitweetup

Hey I'd love to know, what are you struggling with? What one thing is in your way that you'd like help solving? Are there areas specific to your business, or the industry as a whole, that you wish you knew how to do better, or where you're getting stuck? Let me know; I love brainstorming ideas and helping people think through these types of problems. And if I don't know it, I just might know someone who does, and we'll get them on the show!

If you'd like to schedule a 1:1 call w/me, you can now do that at www.callnico.com

You can also just shoot me an email, a LinkedIn message, or pop over to the website and leave me a quick Voicemail, right from your smartphone! That website is www.mysuncast.com and email is nico@mysuncast.com.

044: Tony Clifford, Creating Rapid Growth as the CDO of Standard Solar

"I bet that you didn't know that the first rooftop array was installed in Manhattan!"
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I'm so glad you are with me again this week! We're back with another edition of the Solar Pioneers Series, and today's guest hails from the East Coast of the US. I know what you are thinking - "Wait a minute, Nico, aren't all the solar pioneers from California?"

 

Not all of them! 

 

Back in the 70s and 80s, there were a number of companies in and around the DC area that were quite innovative. Among them, Solarex. Today's guest was one of the early employees at Solerex.

When I met Tony back in 2010, he was the CDO of Standard Solar, a company he continues to lead today. 

I have had the pleasure of watching Standard Solar become one of the fastest growing and important solar companies, not just in the North East region, but now with an established presence across the US.

 

In today's episode, Tony and I discuss:

 

  • What it was like to work for Solarex in the 70s.
  • What Tony believes are the fundamentals or bellwether signs of a maturing industry (and where solar is along that curve).
  • What key employee characteristics he looks for when hiring into such a fast-growing company.
  • Tony's thoughts on the next 5 years ahead for the solar industry.
  • A fun Hot or Not segment, including Tony's thoughts on topics from Distributed Storage to the Section 201 Trade Case with Suniva.
  • ...and of course, some key lessons and advice gleaned from his 30+ years, not just in solar, but in scaling startups!

 

And lastly, if you or someone you know is selling commercial solar, you should check out Solrates.com, the fast and Free online platform for providing your commercial customers with a credible lease financing proposal. If you have projects over $100K value, and you'd like to see how Solrates can help You quickly and easily deliver a financing proposal to your customers, please reach out to me directly for an invitation code to join the platform. Did I mention it's free?

 

 

LINKS & RESOURCES:

Follow Tony on LinkedIn

 

ABOUT THE HOST OF SUNCAST:

Nico Johnson is the creator and host of SunCast, a regular conversation with Solar Industry professionals who are leading in emerging solar markets.  The content of the show is geared towards listeners looking for insights on where the markets are headed, how to position themselves or their companies, and what today's market leaders do to stay ahead of the pack.

Nico is a 10-year veteran of the solar industry, having led development in the US and Latin America for global companies like Trina Solar and Conergy.  He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and is considered one of the market's leading experts on solar PV expansion in the region.

Nico can be reached on Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/in/nickalus
or by email nico@mysuncast.com

043: Smart Home, Monitoring on steroids, Blockchain & startup fundamentals with Stefan Grosjean of Smappee

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NOTE: I'm embarrassed that I said in the introduction Stefan and Smappee are from France - they're actually Proudly a Belgian company - I sincerely apologize for the gaffe, Stefan!

You know Shazaam, [the phone app] for music? So, Shazaam is using the microphone of your smart phone and is listening, processing, "ok, this is the melody for the song, ok, that's Pink Floyd!"  Well, we do the same, except for your home, and with ONE sensor, just one.

That's how Stefan Grosjean "explains" his latest startup tech company, Smappee, to me over coffee at the recent Intersolar North America show in San Francisco.

"In my home, I have 50 appliances, we can hear them all - they all have their own signature." And the intresting thing is, can "make electricity speak", and can distinguish between each appliance from lightbulbs to Playstation to toaster ovens and garage doors.

Stefan's company can make an electricity bill that's itemized, per day, per week, by kWh used for each appliance that's measured.  That begins to speak a story about your home that you simply couldn't hear before.  Amazing.

"We are a foot in the door."

Customers who have smappee start to really care about energy.

Since the unit is about $200, it's a very easy step, a low bar of entry into the world of energy saving.

With zero action, just monitoring, most homeowners see a 12% savings.

Imagine how powerful this data is for a solar installer who is looking for a creative gateway into more homes and more residential customers in their market. It's very similar to the Vivint approach of offering solar to existing home alarm customers, in that you develop a relationship with a customer over a transaction that doesn't break the bank yet gives you and your customer great insight into exactly HOW they are using energy!

There's an important thing missing here.  We're not just a classic energy metering company.

Energy is not fun. And we have to change that.

With our experience in Commercial & Industrial energy management [previous venture exited to Honeywell], we gained lots of insight into the customer by installing submeters, but this is an onerous & expensive process to actually make happen at the residential scale.  With homeowners, many of them are asking, "where is my energy going? I'd like to do something about it but I don’t even know which device is doing what at an electricity consumption level."

So, we designed something unique, one sensor, that measures thousands of times a minute and "hears the fingerprints of each appliance in the home."

Stefan thinks Installers & Contractors should start moving towards recurring business, the smart home system allows the contractor to begin offering ancillary recurring services to the homeowner, like alarm services, home automation/monitoring services, itemized billing, etc.

Furthermore, it's a foot in the door…and every good marketer knows that it's more cost-effective to sell more products to an existing client than to originate new customers.  And homeowners are much more likely acknowledge the value proposition of a home automation unit that is worth a few hundred bucks, which gives both installer and homeowner access to insight about how that customer can better be served with increasing energy efficiency and generation measures!

While I was recently in SF for the Intersolar N.America show, I was on the lookout for products that I thought were innovative.  Thanks to my friend Tor Valenza, aka Solar Fred, I was introduced to the guys from Smappee.  Smappee is WAY more than just a monitoring device, and I had the privilege to sit down with the founder, Stefen Grosjean, himself a serial entrepreneur, to dig into exactly how he his positioning the US launch of this innovative product. I'm happy to bring you that conversation, recorded live from Intersolar. In today's episode, we learn:

  • How Stefen and the Smappee team have been disrupting the building automation and information business for years
  • What exactly does Smappee do, and how could it revolutionize the smart home, not just connecting solar, but basically everything in the home
  • What Stefen means that every appliance in the home has a "fingerprint", and how smappee can "hear" it all with only ONE sensor
  • How the Blockchain can finally be realized for resi & commercial solar customers with Solarcoin - and of course how Smappee has been built to integrate it.
  • And something I think is quite a unique approach or concept - Stefen envisions Smappee can be a gateway product, or door-opener for solar installers to get into offering smart home and automation services that lead to recurring revenue models!

If you like what you hear, or read, please SHARE it!

I also get into Stefen's previous successful entrepreneurial ventures and what it takes to found and grow a company to exit (sold to Honeywell).  He blew my mind on several topics we discussed, and I was supremely impressed with Stefen, his product, vision and startup chops. I expect Smappee to do great things in their entry into the US Market.  And I expect enterprising solar installers to begin to realize the opportunity at their doorstep with integrating smart-home technologies into their sales process.

And lastly, if you or someone you know is selling commercial solar, you should check out Solrates.com, the fast and Free online platform for providing your commercial customers with a credible lease financing proposal. If you have projects over $100K value, and you'd like to see how Solrates can help You quickly and easily deliver a financing proposal to your customers, please reach out to me directly for an invitation code to join the platform. Did I mention it's free?

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042: Cory Vaughan - Pt 2, After SunEdision, lessons from the trenches

Cory Vaughan has had the dream job, not once, but 3 times in his career.  He knows the highs and lows of the "Solarcoaster" better than most in our industry.  And he's spent a decent amount of time thinking about what he's learned from it all.  I'm lucky. We've been friends awhile, and he didn't mind spending 2+ hours with me on a Saturday to get some of it recorded for posterity - and as a bonus YOU get to hear it!

One thing I love about Cory is He knows how to get the buyer, the decision maker in a deal to ask "What's next?"

This is an unbelievably hard skill.

But it’s not the most important skill when you are growing your business or your sales team.

Just yesterday I was chatting with a business owner who admitted that he fears most of his commercial team are dealing with time-wasters. And as we know, time kills all deals.  He's mostly afraid that they are working on already-dead deals, they just haven't realized it yet, or that they're being used as a pawn for a negotiation with another company and haven't yet found the decision maker or economic buyer in order to get real buying signals. This solar company owner also is concerned that his commercial team still doesn't understand how to condense the story and qualify prospects quickly. Cory helps his team(s) avoid this, and it's one of the ways he's been able to rise from obscurity to being one of the top sales guys in our industry, wash, rinse, repeat.

I will tell you the most important skill. And Cory explains more clearly on the podcast.

The most important skill is to have your story down cold - know why you bring more value than your would-be competition, and move your "listener" along the story arc to the point they are ready to say, "great, what's next?".

Here’s the gap: The best in your profession have skills, experience, and they know how to sit down and DO something every day.

The beginners: they WANT to do something. They PLAN to do something. They SAY they will eventually do it. They THINK they have the skills they need.

But they never do it.

The ones who succeed. They have the arrogance to think they can just simply go out and do it. Despite not having the skills. Despite perhaps being total amateurs. They simply go out and DO IT.

By doing it, you LEARN the skills, you DO the job, and you get better.

DOING is the only way to succeed. Most people stop before this point.

Cory doesn’t typically surround himself with amateurs, as we discussed in Part 1 (how he thinks about building his team), but in all cases, his team gets out there and gets it done ahead of their peers. 

And his experience and example have been huge for me. He's been a mentor and friend in my professional career, and I'm still learning from him.  I hope you do to.

In today's episode, part 2 of my session with Cory and the 3rd episode in the "Solar Pioneers" series, we get into detail about:

  • The truth about SunEdison's rooftop leasing program and whether it created an advantage for them
  • How SunEdison set up regulatory affairs and gathered inside information on upcoming market development as a stealth way for their sales teams to look around corners and plan market development
  • How his team seemed to Always be ahead of the cost curve on solar project pricing
  • What it was really like to ride the rise and fall of the MEMC acquisition (of Sunedison)
  • Cory's vision for financing and storage solutions that will help the C&I market
  • Hot or Not, from DG to SAAS-for-solar to grid stabilization
  • Cory's advice to developers from his owned lessons learned
  • And what he'd do differently if he could start over with SunEdison again

Cory just doles out so much advice and insight in this follow-on episode, gleaning from 20+ yrs of experience selling solar!

Nota bene: Since the recording, Cory has merged his consulting practice with Lamb Energy to become EVP for the well-known EPC and energy services company out of Southern California owned for 26 yrs by Scott & Beverly Bailey.

We were also able to dig up a great video of Cory as Manager of BP Solar from 1998 - I link to the video in the show notes over at mysuncast.com - it's a must-see if you've known or met Cory personally!

Hope you've had an epic week of DOING something to move your career, your company and your goals to the next step! What's next?
 

If you like what you hear, or read, please SHARE it!

Books Mentioned:

How to Win Friends & Influence People - Dale Carnegie


Video Link:

The video I mentioned above of Cory in his prime back in the BP Solar Days - it's a must-see. ;-)

Earthchange II ..attack of the CO2s (1998) - part two


And, what I'm reading this week:

Idea To Execution - Ari Meisel


And one of my favorite Videos to watch lately about Storytelling - short & informative:

Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories

 

About the Host of SunCast:

Nico Johnson is the creator and host of SunCast, a regular conversation with Solar Industry professionals who are leading in emerging solar markets.  The content of the show is geared towards listeners looking for insights on where the markets are headed, how to position themselves or their companies, and what today's market leaders do to stay ahead of the pack.

Nico is a 10-year veteran of the solar industry, having led development in the US and Latin America for global companies like Trina Solar and Conergy.  He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and is considered one of the market's leading experts on solar PV expansion in the region.

Nico can be reached on Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/in/nickalus

or by email nico@mysuncast.com

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041: Jing Tian, Trina Solar US President - One savvy woman's thoughts on career development, and contrast between solar startups and industry giants

"When you have self-care, then you feel better about yourself, which is a challenge when you're traveling on the road."

That's how Jing Tian answered the question "what one thing do you do consistently that yields the greatest results", which I always ask guests on SunCast. 

I followed it up with "Do you have that conversation with your team?"

"No, no I haven't, yeah, that's a good question."

In so many cases over the course of producing my podcast, SunCast, I've come across powerful and influential leaders who have their own private habits they attribute to their success when implemented consistently over time.  This was the first time it occurred to me to drill down to whether they actually share this often private and perhaps vulnerable aspect of their own view on success and work-life balance. It was insightful for me, and I hope it was as well for Jing, that many leaders tend not to share their own practices with their team - I wish more would.

I feel the solar industry is finally maturing.  From SunRun to SEIA and all across the solar industry, we're seeing the powerful influence of visionary female leaders rising to the top of what was once a predominantly male-centric industry, certainly in the C-Suite.  This is very encouraging, not just from the perspective of gender-equity, but also in leadership style. I am eager to see how the influence and emotional intelligence of today's women leaders will help reshape the culture of the solar workforce, from partnerships and negotiation strategies to career development.

Jing Tian is a seasoned executive with a unique blend of technical savvy and strong leadership in bringing products to market. From marketing to product development, engineering management to reliability and quality testing, there isn't much she hasn't experienced. She's consistently positioned her companies at the forefront of energy disruption as a scientist interested in creating useful and cost-effective products that help solve climate change. And she's recently taken the mantle of President of N. America for Trina Solar.

Today we'll take a pause in the Solar Pioneers series to chat with a friend who has done some pioneering work in solar R&D and in setting the bar for Women in Solar. I had the privilege to work with Jing when she first got to Trina Solar in 2014, and have been impressed from day one.  She was recently promoted as President of Trina's North America business unit. And I think that you'll understand after today's episode exactly why she has been able to achieve the great heights she presently enjoys. In today's episode, we get into detail about:

  • Jing's journey through various startup failures to arrive at now the top regional position for one of the largest and most respected Solar manufacturers in the world.
  • The contrast of working at solar startups in thin film and CPV versus one of the largest crystalline module manufacturers
  • Jing's approach to new product introduction
  • Her thoughts on career development, especially as a woman in a mostly male industry
  • Of course we play hot or Not
  • And I get Jing to dispel some wisdom learned from her viewpoint at the top of the foodchain, as well as books and other ways she keeps her mind sharp to run a global organization

Resources from today's Show:

Follow Jing and Trina on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn

Books Mentioned:

How to Create a Mind  - Ray Kurzweil

Jing's one consistent habit for success:

Exercise - running every morning at 6am!

If YOU have someone or something you think should be on Suncast, you can shoot me an email, a LinkedIn message, or just click on that button right there (on the right of the page --->) & leave me a quick Voicemail, right from your smartphone!

This episode is brought to you in partnership with Solrates.com, the fast and Free online platform for providing your commercial customers with a credible lease financing proposal. If you have projects over $100K value, and you'd like to see how Solrates can help You quickly and easily deliver a financing proposal to your customers, please reach out to me directly for an invitation code to join the platform. Did I mention it's free?

If you like what you hear, or read, please SHARE it!

 

About the Host of SunCast:

Nico Johnson is the creator and host of SunCast, a regular conversation with Solar Industry professionals who are leading in emerging solar markets.  The content of the show is geared towards listeners looking for insights on where the markets are headed, how to position themselves or their companies, and what today's market leaders do to stay ahead of the pack.

Nico is a 10-year veteran of the solar industry, having led development in the US and Latin America for global companies like Trina Solar and Conergy.  He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and is considered one of the market's leading experts on solar PV expansion in the region.

Nico can be reached on Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/in/nickalus

or by email nico@mysuncast.com

040: Cory Vaughan - Pt 1, Solar Cowboyz to Sunedison (The Mayor Arrives)

Wow, we made it to Episode 40 of SunCast! Thank you for choosing SunCast to fill your ears and I hope it's a beautiful day where you are. I promise you won't be disappointed, so thank you for investing another hour here with us.  This is a longer episode, so settle in for what I hope you'll agree is a fun and fact-filled episode.

Today we're continuing what I have dubbed the Solar Pioneers series. But before we begin, I want to take a moment to clarify and to honor the work of several others in the industry.

It's recently come to my attention that another friend and veteran in the industry, Mr. Jeff Spies, has been working on a similarly titled Documentary highlighting the lives and experience of those who were truly pioneers of the US Residential PV market beginning way back in the 60's and 70's, building some of the early businesses that helped launched solar pv as an industry. This [series] is not that. I apologize in advance to Jeff for any misconception aforehand, as I chose to use the term Pioneers primarily because the folks in this SunCast interview series have indeed been pioneers of business models and companies contributing to what might be called the modern Solar PV Growth era, beginning around the mid 1990's and into the 2000's growing some of today's iconic businesses. Though as we discovered last week with the inaugural episode, many of these folks, too, have been in the solar biz since the 80's, and have been instrumental in helping our industry scale to become one of global importance and dominance. We are all truly standing on the shoulders of giants, and it would be nearly impossible to capture all the voices of all those who were visionaries and martyrs in lifting solar out of obscurity into the mainstream.  If you'd like to learn more about the Solar Pioneer Party that launched Jeff into a 2 yr journey documenting the early days of solar in the US, check out solarpioneerparty.com. I'll also include a few links in the show notes for those interested.

https://www.solarpioneerparty.com/

https://inovateus.com/2017/01/24/coming-soon-documentary-film-celebrate-pioneers-u-s-solar-industry/

Back to today's episode, I first met today's guest in 2009, when I was a project developer in Northern California looking for financing solutions for our commercial customers.  Cory Vaughan was leading then-fledgling SunEdison's Channel growth strategy and national accounts team, and from the moment I heard him speak I knew he had many stories to share. Cory has had the good fortune of being an early team member with a front row seat to several startups that have become industry-leading behemoths, and in today's episode, we get into detail about:

  • His early days in retail and his pivot to working at British Petroleum
  • A group of fellow pioneers who call themselves the Solar Cowboyz
  • Cory's thoughts on selling in the pre and post-China era of low-cost solar panels
  • Being one of the first in and last out at SunEdison
  • How Cory thinks about growing his sales teams and bringing in strategies from other industries
  • A revised version of Hot or Not
  • And really so much more.

So much more, in fact, that this will be part 1 of 2. Cory and I talked for well over 2 hours, and while I've tried to winnow it down, I've decided to release this one as 2 parts. So, hope you enjoy Part 1 today, and get ready for an audio-history journey with a true storyteller.

Thank you again for showing up!  If there are specific things you'd like to hear more of, Please let me know. I can't do this without you, and I want to help solve your problems. 

If YOU have someone or something you think should be on Suncast, you can shoot me an email, a LinkedIn message, or even just leave me a quick Voicemail, right from your smartphone (did you noticed that green sidebar button?)! 

And one last thing, I also am grateful for those who choose to collaborate with SunCast, and this episode is brought to you in partnership with Solrates.com, the fast and Free online platform for providing your commercial customers with a credible lease financing proposal. If you have projects over $100K value, and you'd like to see how Solrates can help You quickly and easily deliver a financing proposal to your customers, please reach out to me directly for an invitation code to join the platform. Did I mention it's free?

Enjoy this week’s episode of SunCast, continuing our Solar Pioneers series, with the inimitable Cory Vaughan.

If you like what you hear, or read, please SHARE it!

Links & Resources:

Follow Cory on Twitter, or LinkedIn

Email Cory Vaughan

Books Mentioned:

Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends & Influence People"

Video Link for:

The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations Into Breakthroughs

And, what I'm reading this week:

Ari Meisel's "Idea To Execution"

**

About the Host of SunCast:

Nico Johnson is the creator and host of SunCast, a regular conversation with Solar Industry professionals who are leading in emerging solar markets.  The content of the show is geared towards listeners looking for insights on where the markets are headed, how to position themselves or their companies, and what today's market leaders do to stay ahead of the pack.

Nico is a 10-year veteran of the solar industry, having led development in the US and Latin America for global companies like Trina Solar and Conergy.  He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and is considered one of the market's leading experts on solar PV expansion in the region.

Nico can be reached on Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/in/nickalus

or by email nico@mysuncast.com

039: Dan Shugar, CEO of NEXTracker, on scale, culture, and winning in business and life

I'm so glad you have chosen This episode to fill your ears with today, I promise you won't be disappointed.  We're going to continue our trip down memory lane this week, in what might be more like a Back-to-the-Future style episode for SunCast.

Today I'm launching what I call the Solar Pioneers series, and I'm honored, and super excited, to have the first in this series be with none other than Mr. Solar, Shugar Magic, Mr. Dan Shugar, CEO of NEXTracker, and one of the most successful folks I know in the business.

This conversation diverges from my typical interview format but is nonetheless packed with information on how one of our industry's leaders thinks about starting and scaling a business. Along the way, we touch on

  • Dan's roots as an engineer and researcher and how that has influenced his career path and leadership style
  • The 3 keys to growth of any start-up
  • The practical side of institutionalizing a corporate culture that is both aggressive and forgiving, empowering yet accountable, fun and fast-paced with industry-leading low turnover
  • Dan's thoughts on squeezing even more power out of PV power plants, including machine learning
  • and so much more.

So while we didn't get into Hot or Not, or book recommendations, or his Bold prediction, you'll want to listen all the way through especially if you have any interest at all in peering inside the mind and thought process of a guy who's built some of our industry's most iconic brands and largest power plants.

If you like what you hear, or read, please SHARE it!

Links & Resources:

Follow Dan on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn

Email Nextracker's head of communications: Kristan Kirsh

Books Mentioned:

Read **

And, what I'm reading this week:

**

Looking for more good articles?  Keep Reading:

**

You know, just by listening to this I already know that you're one of the rare individuals who invests in themselves and is never satisfied with the status quo. It is my hope that SunCast delivers massive value for you, and that each week you take something away that can concretely help you build your company or career and get to the next level of scale and impact.  Thank you for showing up!  If there are specific things you'd like to hear more of, Please let me know. I can't do this without you, and I want to help solve your problems. 

If YOU have someone or something you think should be on Suncast, you can shoot me an email, a LinkedIn message, or even just pop over to the website and leave me a quick Voicemail, right from your smartphone! That website is www.mysuncast.com and email is nico@mysuncast.com.

And one last thing, I also am grateful for those who choose to collaborate with SunCast, and this episode is brought to you in partnership with www.Solrates.com, the fast and Free online platform for providing your commercial customers with a credible lease financing proposal. If you have projects over $100K value, and you'd like to see how Solrates can help You quickly and easily deliver a financing proposal to your customers, please reach out to me directly for an invitation code to join the platform. Did I mention it's free?

About the Host of SunCast:

Nico Johnson is the creator and host of SunCast, a regular conversation with Solar Industry professionals who are leading in emerging solar markets.  The content of the show is geared towards listeners looking for insights on where the markets are headed, how to position themselves or their companies, and what today's market leaders do to stay ahead of the pack.

Nico is a 10-year veteran of the solar industry, having led development in the US and Latin America for global companies like Trina Solar and Conergy.  He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and is considered one of the market's leading experts on solar PV expansion in the region.

Nico can be reached on Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/in/nickalus

or by email nico@mysuncast.com

038: Arturo Herrero, CEO AlterPower, formerly head of Global Sales for Trina Solar & Jinko Solar

In Episode 38, we are going to take a trip down memory lane, to a time when names like Trina and Jinko Solar were yet unheard of in the solar industry, a time when the largest brands were BP, and Conergy, and countless other mainly western names you may or may not recognize.  When I joined Trina solar back in 2011, I became aware of a legendary figure who had been responsible for building the sales team there, and who had subsequently moved on to another Chinese company.  That mythical figure is the eponymous Arturo Herrero, and at long last we got a chance to sit down at the Miami Solarplaza event. Arturo has forgotten more things about growing a solar business than most of us have learned.

I learned a lot from Arturo, and I think you will too.  We cover

  • How Arturo climbed the ranks at BP Solar, and how he was ultimately enticed to move to China for a fledgling solar panel startup!
  • The contrast between growing Trina Solar's team and later moving over to repeat the process at Jinko Solar
  • How Arturo, who travels a ton, prepares himself to get into each new country he's traveling to
  • Where he believes are the next areas of innovation
  • And of course, what's hot, what's not, and so much more.

I'll be out in San Francisco at this year's Intersolar North America, and I just love meeting SunCast listeners.  So please let me know if you're out there.  IF you're interested in the Latin America market, I'll be the moderator for a Breakfast Briefing being held by my friends at Green Power Conferences. That event is from 8 to 10am on Wednesday, the 12th at the Kimpton in Union Square. I'll post more details on the website, so head over to www.mysuncast.com if you're interested in attending this year's Latam Breakfast Briefing and meeting me, Edgar Arvizu, Dino Barajas, and about 100 or so other solar leaders in the Latam market!

 As always,If YOU have someone or something you think should be on Suncast, you can shoot me an email, a LinkedIn message, or even just pop over to the website and leave me a quick Voicemail, right from your smartphone! That website is www.mysuncast.com and email is nico@mysuncast.com.

This episode is brought to you by Solrates.com, the fast and Free online platform for providing your commercial customers with a credible lease financing proposal. If you have projects over $100K value, and you'd like an invitation code to join the platform, please reach out to me directly for an invitation code.

Thanks again for taking the time to be here.  I do hope you enjoy this week’s episode of SunCast, with the one and only, Arturo Herrero.

037: Bob Blenker, CEO of WRB Energy

Bob Blenker is CEO of WRB Energy, an Independent Power Producer who is perhaps most well known in the solar space for the 28MW solar plant they built after winning the first Jamaica solar tender.  

Bob has done development in just about all types of energy, and is one of the most knowledgeable people I know and trust when it comes to learning about how this "game" works.  He's also traveled the world developing all types of projects and his stories are some of the funniest and interesting I've ever heard.

I loved hearing his insights into how they think about new market development, project funding, diversification, and many other topics.

This week's episode is a bit long, at 82 minutes, but well worth it. 

 If you like what you hear, please SHARE it!

SunCast is brought to you by Solrates. SolRates helps solar installers provide instant online financing quotes for commercial and industrial customers with projects $100K value and up. If you'd like an invitation code to join the platform, please reach out to me directly. Solrates is currently only offered for US-based projects.

036: Edgar Arvizu (Round 2), Be the CEO of your own Career!

Welcome to Episode 36 of SunCast.

Today we will be spending time with Edgar Arvizu, VP of Development at major global IPP, Sonnedix.  Edgar was one of my original guests back in Episode 4 of the SunCast launch!  Stoked to have him back for round 2.

Edgar is one of the top solar development leaders in the world today. I had fun asking him some probing questions, specifically about who, what when and where to build development teams, skills and strategy.

Stick around if you're interested in hearing:

  • What markets Edgar is spending most of his time in these days
  • Advice he'd give to himself now 8 yrs riding the solarcoaster
  • Key takeaways from mentors in his career
  • Critical things developers should STOP doing
  • And what areas of solar development Edgar sees around the corner that excites him the most

If you like what you hear, please SHARE it!

SunCast is brought to you by Solrates. SolRates helps solar installers provide instant online financing quotes for commercial and industrial customers with projects $100K value and up. If you'd like an invitation code to join the platform, please reach out to me directly. Solrates is currently only offered for US-based projects.

035: Book Study - Scaling Up by Verne Harnish

Wow Episode 35! Woot! As always, we're here to help you unlock your potential as a leader in the solar industry. Today, we're gonna do something a little different, and we're doing a deep dive into a book that's been highly recommended by a number of SunCast guests.

The show is usually long-form narrative where I interview leaders and executives about how they are scaling their solar companies and extract the hard-won lessons for your benefit.  If you're familiar with the format, I always ask, "What's on your nightstand", or "What book has had the most impact on your personal or professional life."  Well, this book, "Scaling UP" by Verne Harnish, is one of the books recommended that has left an imprint on my mind. So I thought I'd share my review of the book w/you here on SunCast so you can decide if it's something you want to dig into further.

Scaling Up is more of a textbook or workbook for CEO's and their executive times to work through issues involved in scaling up their businesses.  It's a bit like drinking from a fire hose, but the book is organized in a very digestible reference format, complete with executive summaries for every chapter.

Reading and absorbing Harnish’s overview may take perseverance, but it packs an enormous punch. And it's worth the effort.  It's organized in 4 areas:

Four Keys to Scaling Your Business

  1.  Attract and keep the right people
  2.  Create a truly differentiated strategy
  3.  Driving flawless execution
  4.  Having plenty of cash to weather the storms

Enjoy this week's episode of SunCast and the first Book Study!  If you like this, please let me know!

034: (Minisode) Santiago Barcon of Energia Hoy on writing to improve your life, and the developments of the Mexico energy markets

Welcome to another minisode here on SunCast. If you're new here, I'm your host, Nico Johnson, and we're here to help you unlock your potential as a leader in the solar industry.

The show is usually long-form narrative, so these minisodes are brief 20 min or so morsels of sunlight to get you through the workweek.

I'd like to wish a belated happy birthday to today's guest, Santiago Barcon, who I had the distinct pleasure of spending time with on a recent trip down to Mexico.  The recording was done on the terrace of a café on a busy Mexico City street, so while we've tried to clean it up, you will certainly hear the usual street noise.

Nonetheless, I think you'll get value from the conversation today if you'd like to know more about:

  • The recent Mexico energy auctions and his thoughts on the energy reform
  • What Santiago believes more energy professionals should do to strengthen their creativity and analytical capabilities
  • Details of the historical 120MW energy contract with the capital city Metro company
  • The 4 things you need in order to enter the Mexican market as a foreign company
  • And examples of the types of "dead bodies" we're starting to see in wake of the energy reform.

Santiago has been in the energy business for a long time and knows the sector in Mexico better than just about anyone.  Indeed, he owns and publishes the magazine, Energia Hoy, which is a fantastic resource to keep tabs on not just policy and movement but editorial content around the evolution of the Mexico Energy market, especially post energy reform.

033: Sarah Chapman, CEO Faro Energy, Preparing for the Unexpected

Today you'll meet my friend, Sarah Chapman, Co-Founder & CEO of Faro Energy.  Some Takeaways from today's episode:

  • Looking at the C&I solar market in Latin America from a developer perspective
  • How to partner with financing sources who are targeting this market
  • The transition from boutique social impact investment to mainstream investor interest in Latam
  • The importance of diversification and paying attention to energy market dynamics, in particular how they can dramatically change your business model
  • And, Sarah's take on What's Hot & What's Not in Latin America DG solar finance

Faro Energy is a solar financing firm focused on the distributed generation market in Latin America. Faro offers long-term solar finance contracts to commercial & industrial customers, and has built a local team of expert solar professionals who are leading the charge in these frontier markets, many of which are in their infancy regarding solar financing or solar energy at all.  I've had the pleasure of working with the Faro team for a few years now and can attest to their professionalism, depth of knowledge and local partner model to earning their place in the Latin America DG market.  So I was thrilled to finally have Sarah on the show to talk about their roots, and dig into where she sees this market going.

You can get the full show notes and links to books and other resources if you head over to the blog at mysuncast.com.

If you like what you hear, please SHARE it!

SunCast is also brought to you by Solrates. SolRates helps solar installers provide instant online financing quotes for commercial and industrial customers with projects $100K value and up. If you'd like an invitation code to join the platform, please reach out to me directly. Solrates is currently only offered for US-based projects.

032: Andy Bindea - The next step in our Energy Evolution

"What we are trying to achieve with our technology is to create the entire system (software & hardware) stack that will allow for the proliferation of small micro-utility companies, developed from the perspective of being able to operate that utility from anywhere."          - Andy Bindea, CEO - Sigora International
 
Andy Bindea looks out over the community they are electrifying in Haiti
 

The next step in our Energy Evolution
By: Nico Johnson

[This is the #3 in a 4-episode series highlighting leaders in Distributed Solar Generation in Latin America and the Caribbean, brought to you in collaboration with Solarplaza as part of their upcoming Unlocking Solar Capital LATAM conference]

My ancestor from 10,000 years ago was smarter than me. He knew every plant, mushroom, animal, predator, prey in a several mile radius.

He knew how to make weapons. He knew how to capture something, make it edible. I can barely order take-out! And as far as weapons, they say "the pen is mightier than the sword", but it's a rare blog post that will slay that mountain lion (real or metaphorical) lurking around you.

My ancestor also knew how to adapt to new terrains, how to handle strangers who could be threats, how to learn who to trust and who not to trust. I wish I had his skills.

Not only that. Archaeological evidence says his brain was bigger than mine. And bigger is better. 

But, then again, my ancestor still used the same element to both cook his food and light his cave - fire.  While that's something I am definitely glad I don't share with my ancestor, nor would I want it back, it's still the raw, simple reality of nearly 1.3Billion people on the planet today! 

In fact, even if these "societies" have evolved enough to enjoy a small step towards "modern" energy delivery, it's highly likely that energy delivery is STILL based largely on fire.   But more than 5000 people in a remote town in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, will soon rely on a fire that's burning nearly 93 Million miles away - safely extracting all that energy from the Sun itself, instead of all the dead things buried inside the earth that my ancestor once took shade under during unbearably hot days.  And that number is growing every day.

When Andy Bindea, today's guest on SunCast, started his solar company, Sigora Solar, he wasn't even a US citizen yet, but he was already (in his 20s') well-versed in the fight for equal rights and access for humans around the world.  From Green Peace to the Inc. 500, Andy has the kind of diverse background you expect from today's global citizen entrepreneur, and I think it helps him stay grounded in his pursuit of changing the modern energy paradigm.

So, what's next?  Andy says the energy infrastructure is going to evolve, in much the way the telecom sector did in the latter portion of the last Century and the first 10-15 years of this one.  Technology is evolving much faster than we are.  Andy says the next step in energy evolution is distributed architecture, remote payments, localized grid control & stabilisation, and the elimination of energy poverty. I'm excited. 

Here's what I learned:

1. Knowledge is power

There’s a change in the nature of the economy from a material based economy to a knowledge-based economy. The main assets in the past were material like gold mines or wheat fields.  These are the types of things you can conquer through violence.  And, the people of Haiti are a living legacy, as it were, to corruption through conquering, and squandering of precious resources.

That’s how they became the poorest country in the hemisphere, and the largest market in Latin America of people without access to electricity. Their leaders invaded and absorbed their wealth. But you can’t invade and absorb knowledge.

The only good investment you can make for your future is the investment you make in yourself today.  So, Sigora International is teaching that truth to the locals in the towns where they're delivering their energy-paradigm-busting technology, helping them invest in their own knowledge about how to build, own and operate these new kinds of electric grids.  And they've developed a model not just to teach them how to fish…but how to own the fishery!  Their main "asset" in the Haiti market is having proven that Haitians can manage and grow their own electric grid if given the chance.

2. Electrification is a straight-forward and simple calculation

Resources today are different. They’re abstract.

So are global resource problems, but some are more concrete than others.

"But take a look at some of the challenges we have today, health care, education, access to fresh water, sanitation, they are all very difficult problems, and some of them have more complex and difficult to implement solutions," Andy says.

"Electrification is one of the big problems that has a fairly straightforward, implementable and immediately deployable solutions.  I frankly wouldn't even know how to begin thinking, not even conceptually, about how to wrap my head around the magnitude of other problems…however, electricity, it's straightforward."

Andy distills the business of energy, in countries that do have 24/7 access to energy, down to a very simple equation. "at the end of the day, you make Kilowatt-hours, and you sell kilowatt-hours…it's a business model that's been around for quite awhile." 

3. There's not an off-grid, grid-tie divide, at least not in Latin America

In frontier markets, especially in Latin America, there are far fewer people who are not connected to some form of electricity generation, under 25% versus well over 50% in some Asia and Africa markets.

At the end of the day, what we are bringing to the market is a cost-effective revenue control and management solution, both on the software and on the hardware side.

It starts with cost of energy metering solutions and moves all the way through payment methods and efficacy and consistency of those methods. Sigora is recreating the types of systems and technology required at a community level to handle deployment a scalability of what Andy calls the micro-utility model.  They're technology allows for the levels of grid control, electricity ramp, demand management, etc that you'd expect from a veritable Independent System Operator!

An element that's been an important driving force is that Andy views Utility companies as entities that have moved from startup stage into the monopoly stage, in most Western markets. "We often view them as the bad guys, the enemies, so forth. But at the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with the Utility model, make kilowatt-hours and sell kilowatt-hours.  They are just not startup people anymore."

"What we are trying to achieve with our technology is to create the entire system (software & hardware) stack that will allow for the proliferation of small micro-utility companies, developed from the perspective of being able to operate that utility from anywhere."

Andy sees a world where the existing Utilities will rely more and more on these micro-utilities and the "startups" in remote areas of the world to help balance the loads and extend electricity into frontier markets, empowering local economy with reliable technology and system controls.  Andy's vision is not just deploying the grid-in-a-box solution they're piloting in Haiti, but also to provide grid stability and reliability support to the more established markets who, though have electricity, lack RELIABLE access to it!

This isn’t science fiction. It’s already happening.

I’m sort of amazed and excited.

The next step in the energy evolution for much of the world.

If you like what you hear, or read, please SHARE it!

Links & Resources:

Follow Andy on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn

Email Sigora's head of communications: Natasha Skreslet

Books Mentioned:

 

Read "Zero to One" by Peter Thiel

And, what I'm reading this week:

Read "The 5 Second Rule" by Mel Robbins

Looking for more good articles?  Keep Reading about Sigora:

Forbes Article:
Fighting Energy Poverty With Renewables And Sustainable Economics In Haiti And Beyond

Fast Company article:

In Haiti, A Startup Is Building 100% Renewable Grids For Towns With No Power

Microgrid Media article:

Haiti Microgrid Developer Wakes Up To Daunting New Role In Wake Of Hurricane Matthew

GTM Coverage of Sigora Haiti:
Watch: New Mini-Doc Explores the Need for Clean Energy in Haiti
(includes link to the ~12 Min minidocumentary "Empowering Haiti")

How One US Startup Is Making Electrification a Bankable Business in Frontier Markets

Konbit Solèy Leve, and Sigora Int'l as a trusted Ally in the most dangerous city in the Caribbean, Cite Soleil, Haiti.

https://www.konbitsoleyleve.com/allies-1

Explanation of "Konbit"

http://www.konbittogether.org/

"…a term used to describe when a group of people come together to accomplish a project in their community."

 

About the Host of SunCast:

Nico Johnson is the creator and host of SunCast, a regular conversation with Solar Industry professionals who are leading in emerging solar markets.  The content of the show is geared towards listeners looking for insights on where the markets are headed, how to position themselves or their companies, and what today's market leaders do to stay ahead of the pack.

Nico is a 10-year veteran of the solar industry, having led development in the US and Latin America for global companies like Trina Solar and Conergy.  He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and is considered one of the market's leading experts on solar PV expansion in the region.

Nico can be reached on Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/in/nickalus
or by email nico@mysuncast.com

031: Financing off-grid solar, Juan Fermin Rodriguez of Kingo Energy

[This is the #2 in a 4-episode series highlighting leaders in Solar Distributed Generation in Latin America and the Caribbean, brought to you in collaboration with Solarplaza as part of their upcoming Unlocking Solar Capital LATAM conference]

More than 30 million people throughout Latin America still don't enjoy the luxury many of us consider commonplace. That a single electric light can push back the darkness of evening for several hours more, allowing 7 yr old Yolanda to finish her homework after a long afternoon of family chores, is still a modern miracle she won't soon take for granted. You don't have to squint to see her now, in the 3200K glow of an LED bulb…not the way she's squinted all her life to see her kitchen table top for years by the light of a kerosene lantern.  The stifled cough of her little brother is the last remnant of that relic of a century past, only recently discarded in several homes in this remote mountain village.  Or, perhaps it's easier to imagine Rafael, closing his store in the center of a sleepy town at the end of another busy day, the only member of the community who can offer charging services for countless cell phones, and the only place to catch the World Cup qualifier, as he's also the only one with a Television.  He's still the only one with electricity at all, at least, until he can sell more of his neighbors on the low monthly costs to harness the same power he does, the Sun on their own rooftops!

Juan Fermin Rodriguez, today's guest on SunCast, is all-too-familiar with the stories of Yolanda, Rafael and 40,000 others in remote villages throughout Latin America.  They are his customers, and his company, Kingo Energy, is leading the revolution to light up the last remote, underserved villages stretching across Latin America and the Caribbean utilizing micro solar energy kits.  I was very curious about how these companies have been able to penetrate this untapped market, what the tech is like, how they can afford the operating costs to deliver their products, and more, so I asked Juan to join me on SunCast so we could learn more.

In today's episode, Juan and I go into great detail on:

  • The size of the Latam offgrid market
  • The strategy behind starting an off-grid solar company focused on Latam instead of Africa and Asia
  • The difference in technology's role in Latam versus other markets
  • How Kingo has become one of the best-capitalized solar startups in Latin America
  • And a detailed discussion of both their fundraising and go-to-market strategy
  • And much more.

I'll be honest; it was NOT what I expected.  I would say that I enjoyed this conversation as much as any I've done, and I believe it's one of the most valuable we've brought to you yet.  If you've known me awhile, you know that offgrid and remote communities is one of the areas of solar that I'm most excited about, yet this is the first guest of a offgrid of microgrid company I've had. So, needless to say, I'm excited, and I hope you get as much out of it as I have.

This is one of those episodes that I really feel could have continued for another hour. There are so many questions left unanswered, still stones left unturned.  I'm curious to better understand how Juan deals with cultural differences as he expands beyond his home country, as he readily admitted having never really lived outside of Guatemala. Thankfully, I'll get a chance to sit down with him in person in Miami in June, and I know I can follow up with him then!  And so can you!.  Join us at the Solarplaza Unlocking Solar Capital LATAM event June 15/16 in Miami, FL. 

Solarplaza organizes some of the finest conferences and trade missions on solar energy in emerging markets that I've attended.  I'll be joining the Solarplaza team, Juan and many other key leaders in the Latin America Market at this event, and hope to meet you there too.

And just for being a SunCast listener, you get a 10% discount by using the code "SUNCAST" when you begin registration!

SunCast is also brought to you by Solrates. SolRates helps solar installers provide instant online financing quotes for commercial and industrial customers with projects $100K value and up. If you'd like an invitation code to join the platform, please reach out to me directly. Solrates is currently only offered for US-based projects.

If you like what you hear, or read, please SHARE it!

Resources from today's Show:

Email: juan@kingoenergy.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/juan-ferm%C3%ADn-rodr%C3%ADguez-91217b19/

Website: https://kingoenergy.com/about/

Books Mentioned:

El Libro del hombre - Osho

Demian - Herman Hesse

The Inevitable - Kevin Kelly

And, what I'm reading this week:

Unshakeable - Tony Robbins

 

About the Host of SunCast:

Nico Johnson is the creator and host of SunCast, a regular conversation with Solar Industry professionals who are leading in emerging solar markets.  The content of the show is geared towards listeners looking for insights on where the markets are headed, how to position themselves or their companies, and what today's market leaders do to stay ahead of the pack.

Nico is a 10-year veteran of the solar industry, having led development in the US and Latin America for global companies like Trina Solar and Conergy.  He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and is considered one of the market's leading experts on solar PV expansion in the region.

Nico can be reached on Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/in/nickalus

or by email nico@mysuncast.com

030: Patrick Doyle, Financing Energy Efficiency + Renewables

When you grow up in the Military, you never know where you might put down roots, but you can almost assuredly know you'll be able to move across borders and cultures with ease.  Patrick Doyle, today's guest on SunCast, has done so in personal and professional life, which helps explain how this American-born solar financier has been able to have a prolific career throughout Europe and Latin America.  Patrick has had the privilege of being among the early teams financing renewable energy projects in the Latam region, and has the scars to prove it!  Today, he works for MGM Innova Capital, a hedge fund focused on providing ESCO type services to C&I customers throughout Latam for both energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.  I especially enjoyed Patrick's perspective on financing Storage + PV for demand response in Latin America!

In today's episode, Patrick and I cover:

  • Structured finance for the DG Solar market in Latin America
  • Lessons learned financing private sector deals at the IDB
  • How to compete as a developer for the limited capital available to the DG market
  • And much more.

I feel I missed an opportunity here to really dig into the type of EE financing that MGM is involved in, to be honest.  I should have been more probing around that area of their business.  But, I'll get a chance to sit down with Patrick in Miami in June, and I know I can follow up with him then!  You could do the same.  Join us at the SolarplazaUnlocking Solar Capital LATAM event June 15/16 in Miami, FL. 

Solarplaza organizes some of the finest conferences and trade missions on solar energy in emerging markets that I've attended.  I'll be joining them and other key leaders in the Latin America Market at the event in Miami.

And just for being a SunCast listener, you get a 10% discount when you use the code "SUNCAST" when you begin registration!

SunCast is also brought to you by Solrates. SolRates helps solar installers provide instant online financing quotes for commercial and industrial customers with projects $100K value and up. If you'd like an invitation code to join the platform, please reach out to me directly. Solrates is currently only offered for US-based projects.

If you like what you hear, please SHARE it!

Resources from today's Show:

Email: pdoyle@mgminnovacap.com

LinkedIn: Patrick Doyle

Books Mentioned:

Why Soccer Matters - Pele

7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen R. Covey

10% Happier - Dan Harris

10% Happier podcast - itunes link
Also mentioned:
Listen to Navy SEAL & Endurance Athlete David Goggins on Being the Hardest Human Alive from Finding Mastery: Conversations with Michael Gervais in Podcasts

And my recommendation of the week:

The Unbeatable Mind - Mark Divine

About the Host of SunCast:

Nico Johnson is the creator and host of SunCast, a regular conversation with Solar Industry professionals who are leading in emerging solar markets.  The content of the show is geared towards listeners looking for insights on where the markets are headed, how to position themselves or their companies, and what today's market leaders do to stay ahead of the pack.

Nico is a 10-year veteran of the solar industry, having led development in the US and Latin America for global companies like Trina Solar and Conergy.  He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and is considered one of the market's leading experts on solar PV expansion in the region.

Nico can be reached on Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/in/nickalus

or by email nico@mysuncast.com

029: Alejo Lopez, a field guide to career change, from Fracking to Photovoltaics

Today, we're spending time with Latin America solar veteran, Alejo Lopez of Nextracker.  You should be listening if you're interested in:

  • What's happening in the Mexico market
  • Where else in Latin America Alejo believes hot, or not
  • What it's like to convert from the Dark Side of Oil & Gas to the Renewables industry
  • Key lessons and takeaways from one of the regions veteran developers
  • And some fantastic book recommendations!

Alejo has been a leader in the Mexico solar industry for nearly 6 years now, and has been involved in some of the most important deals in that country.  We turn over a lot of stones in this conversation.  Thanks again for taking the time to be here.  Enjoy this week’s episode of SunCast, with Alejo Lopez.

If you like what you hear, please SHARE it!

Resources from today's Show:

Email: alopez@nextracker.com

Alejo on LinkedIn

Books Mentioned:

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power- John Meacham

The amazing adventures of Kavalier & Clay - Michael Chabon

This episode is brought to you by Solrates. SolRates helps solar installers provide instant online financing quotes for commercial and industrial customers with projects $100K value and up. If you'd like an invitation code to join the platform, please reach out to me directly. Solrates is currently only offered for US-based projects.

 

About the Host of SunCast:

Nico Johnson is the creator and host of SunCast, a regular conversation with Solar Industry professionals who are leading in emerging solar markets.  The content of the show is geared towards listeners looking for insights on where the markets are headed, how to position themselves or their companies, and what today's market leaders do to stay ahead of the pack.

Nico is a 10-year veteran of the solar industry, having led development in the US and Latin America for global companies like Trina Solar and Conergy.  He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and is considered one of the market's leading experts on solar PV expansion in the region.

Nico can be reached on Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/in/nickalus

or by email nico@mysuncast.com

028: Stephen Lacey, Editor-in-Chief at GTM and creator of The Energy Gang podcast

There are few journalists in the solar industry as prolific as today’s SunCast guest, the one-and-only Stephen Lacey.  Stephen has been a mainstay in cleantech journalism for more than a decade and recently ascended to the top Editorial position at Greentech Media.  As Editor-in-Chief, Stephen wears many hats, but the one I’m glad he still dons weekly is that of Host of the GTM podcasts The Energy Gang and The Interchange.  Stephen is one of the OG's of solar and cleantech podcasting, having started the solar energy podcast for RenewableEnergyWorld.com magazine way back in 2006!  As Barbara Mandrell might say, Stephen "was podcasting when podcasting wasn't cool!"  But being on the cutting edge of technology and journalism is what Stephen is all about.  It's what has fueled his life and career for more than a decade, and what has elevated him to his current role at the helm, editorially speaking, of what might be considered the clean tech industry's most important news and research agency, GTM.  So, he now literally sits at the mouth of the funnel of a behemoth of data, insight, and punditry across the gamut of cleantech and solar (in particular) conversations.  It was with great joy that I was able to finally get Stephen to accept an invitation to be a guest on SunCast

Today's episode in many ways has been 18 months in the making.  I met Stephen way back when I was just recording the first episodes of SunCast, and have looked to him as a mentor and spiritual podcast guide longer still. In today’s episode, we talk about much more than podcasting, and I really enjoyed Stephen’s perspective on a wide array of topics in a new version of Hot or Not I tailored specifically to him!  I think you'll be intrigued to hear what Stephen believes is the next game-changer for the Energy industry - hint, it's NOT storage.  It has led me to do a LOT more research in a hitherto completely new and unchartered territory for me, and I'm anxious to learn how I, too, can participate in this new and transcendent format for energy transactions!

Like many of you, GTM is one of my go-to resources for up-to-date info on the bleeding edge of cleantech, so I'm truly excited to have Stephen on the show today. 

There's a Ton here to ponder today, but among the topics discussed, we discover:

  • The origins of the Energy Gang podcast, and Stephen's love for the medium
  • A modified version of "Hot or Not" where Stephen opines on topics from Distributed storage to SAAS startups in cleantech
  • The likelihood of a carbon tax
  • Stephen's view on the impact of the Trump Administration
  • And some of his biggest takeaways from over a decade of clean energy reporting.

Thanks again for checking out SunCast.  

And as always, you can check the blog page for resources from today's show.

If you like what you hear, please SHARE it!

Stephen's bold prediction:

The Offshore wind industry will become a major player for renewables in the coming year.

Resources from today's Show:

Email: lacey@greentechmedia.com

Twitter: @stphn_lacey

GTM Podcasts: The Energy Gang and The Interchange

Energy Gang episode on Block Chain - Interview with Paul Brody of E&Y

Alexis Madrigal (Cleantech at Wired Magazine, now writes at The Atlantic)

Dave Roberts and Brad Plumer at Vox
 

Books Mentioned:

Made to Stick - Chip and Dan Heath

Powering the Dream - Alexis Madrigal

The Carbon War - Jeremy Leggett

To our Children's Children - Bob Greene
 

Podcast recommendations:

The Ezra Klein Show

The Longform Podcast

Waking Up with Sam Harris

 

About the Host of SunCast:
Nico Johnson is the creator and host of SunCast, a regular conversation with Solar Industry professionals who are leading in emerging solar markets.  The content of the show is geared towards listeners looking for insights on where the markets are headed, how to position themselves or their companies, and what today's market leaders do to stay ahead of the pack.
Nico is a 10-year veteran of the solar industry, having led development in the US and Latin America for global companies like Trina Solar and Conergy.  He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and is considered one of the market's leading experts on solar PV expansion in the region.

Nico can be reached on Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/in/nickalus

or by email nico@mysuncast.com