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

027: Latam Founder Juan Carlos Navarro, from public servant to solar warrior

It's not every day that I get to sit down with a dignitary.  And today's guest is not your typical dignitary. No, despite 10 yrs as one of the most important public figures in Panama, and a credible run at that country's top position, Mr. Juan Carlos Navarro is one of the most down-to-earth people I've had the privilege of meeting.  From humble roots, Juan Carlos has embodied the epitome of being a servant to his country and his people.  As a young conservationist, he returned to his homeland of Panama and literally wrote the book on Panama's public parks and protected areas.  And now, after an incredible decade in the public eye, he has set his environmentalist hand to the plow once again as a very vocal fanatic of the solar revolution.  His company, N-Solar, has led the way in Panama and Central America in ushering this inevitable shift toward distributed renewable power, and today we get to hear from him all about how and why he has decided to dedicate the next half of his career to Clean Energy.

Well Today on SunCast, you'll meet Juan Carlos Navarro, founder and CEO of N-Solar in Panama.  If you've never had the pleasure of meeting Juan Carlos, he's not only a luminary in Panamanian society (he was mayor of Panama City for a Decade!), but is also an entirely passionate fanatic of solar power and climate conservation.  We go into his background in non-profit management and his 10+ yrs as a public dignitary, and I'm sure you'll find some interesting takeaways on the how and why he decided to start a solar company.

Among the many topics today, we cover:

  • The value of technological innovation as a differentiator in the sales & marketing of a solar firm
  • The three areas Juan Carlos has learned the most in founding a solar company
  • Common challenges facing all latam solar startups
  • The logic behind building a 2.4MW utility project with microinverters
  • Juan Carlos's extensive reading list,
  • And much, much more

We hope you get a ton of value from today’s episode, but if you’re interested in learning more about Juan Carlos and his team, I encourage you to visit their website or their Facebook Page.

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

If you like what you hear, please SHARE it!

And be sure to check out all the rest of the episodes in this Latam Founder series!

Juan Carlos' bold prediction:
"Every country should be investing in Storage and Smart Grids; the minute we have cost-effective reliable storage, solar + storage will become the dominant power generation combination."

Resources & Books mentioned:

Nsolar Twitter

JCN on Twitter

N-Solar on Facebook

N-Solar Website

The Art of Worldly Wisdom: A Pocket Oracle - Baltasar Gracian
A little history of the world - E.H. Gombrich
Catedral del Mar - Ildefonso Falcones
Redentores - Enrique Krauze
Biography of Pepe Mujica (will update with exact one…)
La Vicashe de Fidel (Biography of Fidel Castro (in French)) - (couldn't find…)

Publications and Events JCN references or attends:
GTM
BNEF
Solar Power Int'l
SEPA (member)
SEIA (member)
Panamanian Chamber on Renewable Energy (member)


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

025: Jason Zook, buy his future, and make your goals a reality

Whatever you're building needs to be oriented towards

helping someone be better at what they do.

Nobody's work embodies this quote more in my own life than Jason Zook.  Over the last 2 years, one of the ways I invested in my OWN future and helped build my offramp from corporate life to running my own business was to invest in This guy's future, literally - Today I'm going to introduce you to Jason (and his wife, Caroline), and we'll discuss why he is selling his future, and how it could benefit You as well.

Today on SunCast, you'll meet my friend and mentor, Jason Zook.   In the online marketing and product space, Jason may be one of the most creative people I've met.
He made over $1Million wearing t-shirts for others.
He sold his last name...3 times!
He even got his first book sponsored by more than a dozen companies before he ever wrote the first word...or even knew what the book would be about.  No kidding.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Why I count buying Jason's future as the best investment I have made in the last 3 years
  • Jason’s advice for someone starting out on their entrepreneurial journey
  • Creating products that solve your own problems, and turning them into profit
  • And what crazy thing he’s up to next.

Jason has become my online guru - and the community he has curated is essentially my online family/tribe now.

The ethos of Jason's life can be summed up in the URL for his personal blog:

Jason - Does - Stuff

I am taking a slight departure from normal today because I know there are a bunch of you who'll benefit from hearing what Jason is up to.  I've heard you, you're independent, or want to be independent, building your own consulting business, or maybe software that would scratch an itch in the solar industry.  With the recent Latam Founders Series, we really started looking at the underlying mindset, habits and processes of those who have founded successful solar companies. I believe that there's a lot you can learn from those who've gone before you, and as they say, Success Leaves Clues.

With BuyOurFuture, Jason, and his new wife Caroline, offer is so much more than just the products or services they've created to date.
But, here are a few of the things that I have found valuable about being a part of this amazing online community.
Courses I have used or find valuable:
How to get Sponsorships for anything - this is how I discovered Jason, and it's also partly how I have been able to keep SunCast going.
Podcast like a boss
Caroline's Better Branding course
And The Profit & Action Guides

And, there's some of the Stuff I'm getting prepped to use:
Online Course prep - Teachery (host courses), Ofcoursebooks (course materials/guides), EasyCourse (how to make an online course) - are you seeing a theme here?  ;-) 

They are all part of the content available to the community who buys their future, but it doesn't stop with what they've made. As the title implies, you are literally buying Access to EVERY product they will ever make, for the rest of their lives!  Crazy, right?

But honestly, the part that has really captivated me and proven to be way more valuable than the actual products purchased is access to the rest of those who also bought Jason's future, via a private Slack group:

I had never used Slack before joining this community.

Now I insist that all my companies and any I invest in use it.

It's a growing tribe of do-ers and gurus in their own industry.  It's been at times my (and others) group support - kind of my go-to for technical, internet marketing, etc.  Literally the last membership I feel I'll ever need to buy, period.

One of the things that amazes me in the [slack] community is how much velocity there is!

Honestly it feels like I am constantly seeing ideas born and executed upon in days if not hours, and many times fostering collaboration among the group members to build products together, contract each other's services and support one another on the journey.  And unlike many similar groups I'm a member of, mostly on Facebook, Jason is as active as just about anyone in the group. He is constantly giving of his time, ideas, resources and connection to help those who have joined his tribe.

 

I encourage you to check it out and see for yourself whether the BuyOurFuture community could be useful for you.  If it is, I'll see you on the inside!

 

Resources from today's show:

Click HERE to read more on the topic of the show, "BuyOurFuture" and how you, too, can buy Jason and his wife's future and all their existing products - 31 so far. (affiliate link)

Jason's Article "The $64 MBA"

Jason's article all about his 30-day social media detox

Jason's ActionArmy newsletter & website

Books recommended:

The Atlantis Gene - A.G. Riddle

Eating Animals - Jonathan Safran Foer

Essentialism - Greg McKeown

 

About the Author:
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

024: Arturo Duhart of Exel Solar on scaling up a Mexico solar distributor

This is Episode 24 of SunCast, and Episode 5 in the Latam Founders Series, which is being brought to you through a special collaboration with Enphase Energy.  This episode is entirely in Spanish (well, except for the introduction).

Today on SunCast, you'll meet Arturo Duhart, founder of one of Mexico’s largest solar companies, and possibly the largest solar distributor - Exel Solar.  Today's episode was recorded live in Las Vegas back in September during the annual Solar Power Int'l conference.

Arturo and I spend some time talking about:

  • The early days of Exel

  • Their growth trajectory

  • Expansion plans outside of Mexico

  • And, of course, what he sees happening in the market

Arturo's bold prediction:
2017 will be the year of MLPE (if you aren't familiar with MLPE, check out Episode 23 with Jon Bonanno, or check out my recent LinkedIn article, linked below)

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

If you like what you hear, please SHARE it!

And be sure to check out all the rest of the episodes in this Latam Founder series - stay tuned!!!  

Resources mentioned in today's episode:

Book:

Scaling Up - Verne Harnish (also mentioned in Episode 17 with Jose Zambrano!)

Steve Jobs autobiography

My recent LinkedIn-Pulse article from Episode 23 on the rise of MLPE

 

About the Author:

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

023: Jon Bonanno, a new energy paradigm and being a good Gridizen

(for a slightly updated version of this blog post, check out this LinkedIn Post, which has some GREAT commentary)

As far back as 2009, GTM Research has been heralding the coming disruption in the inverter market - Distributed Inverter Architectures, or Microinverters, Optimizers, and other forms of distributed or module-level power electronics. 

"The global PV market is hungry for solutions that simplify installation, eliminate redundancy and lower overall costs. Smart and AC modules can accomplish each of these objectives. Additionally, microinverters and DC optimizers will be the fastest growing inverter segment over the next five years as a result of falling costs and increasing system safety requirements," says GTMs Scott Moskowitz in the preamble to a 2015 report on the topic.  A more recent report by Scott suggests that 3-phase central inverters, once the backbone of the Commercial solar installation, will only account for 37% of that segment by 2020!  And just this week Frost and Sullivan reported they expect the MLPE market to become a billion-dollar market in 2021.

Yet, even in this and other intriguing writeups on the Module level power electronics (MLPE) marketplace, a sentence is rarely given to the founders of today's guest, yet they have created the technology that may likely be the "intel inside" of the MLPE market moving into the next century. Many have argued that MLPE doesn't make sense outside of the Residential market, but a DOE study found that "while first costs of MLPE-equipped PV systems tend to be higher than a comparable central inverter PV system, most modern MLPE products also include Web-based monitoring that allows system owners and technicians to remotely assess system performance and health at the module level."  And as Jake Hoppe pointed out in Episode 21, historically unaccounted for and thus under-appreciated savings on energy harvest as well as O&M are beginning to find their way into the financial models for many savvy C&I installers.

Welcome to Episode 23 of SunCast.  Today we take a break from the Latam Founders Series, but not from meeting yet another solid founder in the solar industry.

Well Today on SunCast, you'll meet Jon Bonanno, CCO of Empower Micro Systems.  I'm reaching back in the vault from SPI again…Today's episode was actually recorded live on the tradeshow floor!  So, again I've done all I can to reduce the background noise, so hopefully, it isn't too distracting.

Jon is a friend and mentor, and knows a Ton about technology, launching and growing new companies, and is well-versed in the challenges of the Solar Industry.

In the next 30 minutes, we discuss:

  • Jon's penchant for Making up new words
  • Why he believes Module level power electronics (MLPE) is the most appropriate technology for rooftop projects
  • Survival when you're founding companies that are way ahead of their time or the market
  • And of course, much more

We hope you get a ton of value from today’s episode, and if you’re interested in learning more about Jon or Empower, I encourage you to visit their website or ping Jon on LinkedIn. Both are in the show notes; check the blog page for resources from today's show.

If you like what you see and hear, please SHARE it with this pre-filled tweet!

And be sure to check out all the rest of the episodes in this Latam Founder series - stay tuned!!!

Resources in today's episode:

Books:

Jack Kornfield - After the Ecstasy, the Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path

Dr. Helen Schucman - A Course in Miracles

Empower Micro Systems website

Jon Bonanno on Linked In

Frost and Sullivan MLPE study 2016

US Dept. Of Energy 2-pager on MLPE

Most recent GTM Research report on the MLPE market

An old but nonetheless poignant article from GTM on MLPE (2014)

Older 2009 GTM write up on distributed inverter architecture

And last, a market forecast chart and a slightly dated look at the MLPE Taxonomy from GTM - anybody have updated versions?

 

About the Author:

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

022: [ES] Latam Founders Series: Maximo Solar takes over Isla Del Encanto

According to the US EIA, from July 2012 to April 2015, distributed solar photovoltaic customers quadrupled in Puerto Rico while generating capacity increased by a factor of nine, bringing  distributed solar capacity to 37 megawatts. Electricity fuel surcharges decreased as the price of oil dropped during 2015, but Puerto Rico's retail consumers still paid more for their power than consumers in any state except Hawaii, often exceeding $0.20/kWh!  While many in the solar industry watched in horror as the state-run utility, PREPA, drove the RPS-driven Utility market into the ground, a few local players silently created a veritable distributed generation solar market.  Among those players is Maximo Solar, ranked #146 on the Solar Power World list of the top 500 North America installers, and the leading installer for Puerto Rico, at least in 2015, with >30% market share.

Bienvenidos and Welcome to Episode 22 of SunCast, and Episode 4 in the Latam Founders Series, which is being brought to you through a special collaboration with Enphase Energy.  We're rockin with this new Series, having a lot of fun, and as I mentioned 2 weeks ago, some of them are in English, and some are in Spanish.  Today's episode is another in Spanish, as you can see in the Title by that little "ES" in brackets.

In this episode, you'll meet Maximo Torres, founder of Maximo Solar in Puerto Rico, along with his GM, Jonattan Martir.  Today's episode was actually recorded live in Las Vegas back in September during the annual Solar Power Int'l conference.

I call Maximo the Solar philosopher, and it's true.  He has an infectious passion for solar, and it's no surprise that his company is one of the strongest in the Puerto Rico market. I've never met another solar founder who was this effusive about his beliefs in self-improvement, the state of the energy sector broadly, and the fundamentals of building a good business.

There are some real goodies in here, so take some time to listen intently, as we discuss:

Choosing between the large utility-scale markets, C&I or Residential

  • The importance of having a growth mindset, and the resulting view on competition
  • The value of being extremely customer-centric
  • One internal tool they've used multiple times to expand beyond their current product offering into profitable new segments
  • The two most important people in a solar company, and aligning corporate values around them
  • And so, so much more

We hope you get a ton of value from today’s episode, but if are interested in learning more about Maximo and his team, I encourage you to visit their website or their Facebook Page.

If you like what you see and hear, please SHARE it with this pre-filled tweet!

And be sure to check out all the rest of the episodes in this Latam Founder series - stay tuned!!!

Resources in today's episode:

* US Energy Information Association source page on Puerto Rico

Solar Power World top 500 Installers in North America ranking

Maximo Solar Website

Maximo Solar Facebook page

Maximo Torres on LinkedIn

Jonattan Matir on LinkedIn

Green Energy Fund, Fondo de Energia Verde

Comision de Energia de Puerto Rico

Autoridad de Energia Electrica, Data 1999-2015

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority

Oficina Estatal de Politica Publica Energetica

Puerto Rico Infrastructure Financing Authority

About the Author:

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

021: Jake Hoppe on the secret sauce that landed some of Enphase Energy’s early Latam customers

Bienvenidos and Welcome to Episode 21 of SunCast, and Episode 3 in the Latam Founders Series, which is being brought to you through a special collaboration with Enphase Energy.  Today we have a slight departure from the usual format.  No, it's not in Spanish like last week's episode, but it also doesn't follow the typical question flow I've used in the first 20 episodes. In prep for the interviews in this series, I asked my friend Luis over at Enphase if there was anyone on his team who was able to articulate well the challenges they come across in the field, especially from the perspective of financing for C&I customers.  He pointed me to Jake Hoppe.  And after you hear today's conversation, you'll understand why.  I was originally going to use my call with Jake just to backfill with some soundbites on the episodes (like Episode 17 with Jose Zambrano) as a way to provide a third voice explaining some of the intricacies of financing C&I deals.  But after I heard the interview again, I knew it was plenty good enough to stand on its own merits.  

Today on SunCast, you'll meet Jake Hoppe, who is currently working in Business Development for Spruce Finance, but Jake got his start in the solar industry at Enphase.  

And from what I can tell, he was instrumental in helping get some of their pivotal early deals across the finish line in Latin America.  He's also been very hands-on with areas of the business like working with underwriters (think Moody's) on evaluating the underlying risks of assets Enphase had deployed for large IPPs looking to go public.  I've said it before, but you'll want to take notes on this one.  If you're anything like me, you'll have to go back and listen to it again as Jake dispels wisdom at almost every turn in the conversation.

Jake and I discuss:

  • Some of the difficult problems his team was able to help customers solve in the field.

  • Where you can look to better understand what he calls the Gold Standard in conservative best practices in valuing solar systems

  • The fundamental elements of project underwriting for financing C&I deals

  • The one question that could radically change a company’s ability to scale - or put a  different way, the wrong versus the right way to think about how you value the inputs to your IRR and margin calculations

I am supremely positive you’re going to get a ton of value from today’s episode.

If you like what you hear, please SHARE it!

And be sure to check out all the rest of the episodes in this Latam Founder series - stay tuned!!!

Resources in this episode:

(will upload a link to one of the presale Sheets Jake mentioned, shortly)

 

About SunCast Author:

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 at nico@mysuncast.com

020: [ES] Latam Founders Series: Julian Willenbrock, Enlight Mexico’s rebrand is just the beginning


Bienvenidos and Welcome to Episode 20 of SunCast, and Episode 2 in the Latam Founders Series, which is being brought to you through a special collaboration with Enphase Energy.  If you didn’t have a chance to hear the setup episode last week, go back and check out Episode 16, as I speak with Luis Morales at Enphase about why we wanted to collaborate on this specific series of conversations.

As you may have noticed in the show title - today’s episode, and several others in the series, is completely in Spanish, si, totalmente en espanol.  One of the ideas I'm exploring with Enphase's support is whether there is an audience for our content in Spanish.  So, if you don't speak or understand Spanish, you’ll want to key in on the [ES] in the show title, just like today's which let’s you now ahead of time - they're totally in Spanish.

If that is you, and you don’t speak Spanish - have no fear, b/c I’ll also be releasing some minisodes like the one I did this past Wednesday with Rod Barfield.  The content will vary, but it will be a bite-sized morsel of sunshine, in English, to brighten your week!  If that’s you, or if you missed it, go back and listen to that one instead, it’s only 15 min.

So, more about Enlight:  

Julian and his partner Roberto founded the company as Enerclima several years ago, but in 2016 they took on investment and rebranded the company as Enlight, aimed at taking a leadership role in the Distributed solar market in Mexico.

Julian and I discuss lots of things particular to their business as well as the Mexico market generally:

  • History of Enlight's foundation, formation, growth and inflection points.

  • Role and/or importance of technology in scaling the business

  • details around how Enlight has overcome obstacles and roadblocks to deploying projects, to growing the company

  • Financed systems as a means for growth (vs turnkey ownership)

We hope you get a ton of value from today’s episode, but are interested in learning more about Enlight, I encourage you to visit their website or their Facebook Page.

If you like what you hear, please SHARE it!

And be sure to check out all the rest of the episodes in this Latam Founder series - stay tuned!!!

Julian's Bold Prediction:

In the next year, a clear #1 player will emerge in the Mexico DG Solar space!

Habits he practices that improve his life and business:

He has learned to "turn it off" when he leaves work.
He loves travel and having fun outside of work, especially in sports-related activiteis like playing Paddle Tennis
And an amazing habit he has developed that is rather un-latino - he credits the habit of Punctuality as a key marker to his success!
 

Resources in this episode:

Enlight website

you can email Julian

Books:

Hard thing about Hard Things - Ben Horowitz

The Power of Habit - Charles Duhick

The Founder's Dilemmas - Noam Wasserman

 

About SunCast Author:

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 at nico@mysuncast.com