Reported by Stella Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Who are your target customers?
REC Solar’s vision is to bring solar to the mainstream in both residential and commercial markets. We are targeting residential customers through cash and PPA sales in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Jersey and have installed more solar, as measured in megawatts, in 2010 than any other system integrator in California. In addition to these states, we are actively selling and installing commercial PV systems nationwide. Aside from developing more than 25 MW of large rooftop installations for Fortune 500 companies like COSTCO, Nestle Purian, IKEA, DuPont and Safeway, we are also active in the government and utility segments. For example, last month we completed the largest operational solar system in Kapaa, Hawaii for a local utility. We also have a strong pipeline of U.S. government projects, having successfully completed one of the largest U.S. carport installations at the Southern Arizona Veteran Affairs Heath Care System in Tucson, Arizona.
How will the PV market grow in 2011?
With the U.S. PV market more than doubling in 2010, I expect another strong year of growth in 2011. While estimates of market size for 2011 range from 1.5 GW to 2.5 GW, I personally would expect the market to be somewhere around 1.7 GW. Compared to the total world market, this only accounts for 8 to 10% of global demand.
Can you give us some sense of how big this market could be?
I think the U.S. market will be one of the top two global PV markets in the future. At this moment, Germany and Italy are in that position. By 2015, I would expect the U.S. market to exceed 5 GW, more than five times what is was in 2010.
What are the key competitive differentiators for REC Solar, and why is this difficult for others to replicate?
There is not one single factor that could easily be replicated by competitors, as there are a number of key differentiators that set REC Solar apart. We are highly experienced─with more than 6,000 systems installed since 1997, REC Solar draws on substantial experience to further optimize and reduce installation costs. We know our customers─REC Solar offers customized solutions for varying customer needs and climate zones. We have national reach through our offices and large retail organizations like COSTCO and IKEA. We are local─with offices in all major solar markets, REC Solar brings community and regulatory knowledge to every solar system we sell. We understand process optimization and construction─ with a complete end-to-end project management process, REC Solar offers high-quality systems that translate directly into great customer satisfaction ratings, whether a residential system or more complex commercial installation like solar carports and dual-axis trackers. We instill confidence needed to get through what can sometimes be a very confusing and overwhelming purchase process. And finally, customers know we will be around after the sale based on our many years in the business.
What is your growth strategy?
We will continue to pursue revenue growth in all market segments, a goal that the general market growth is helping us with. We are expanding our residential presence in targeted geographies nationwide. Our commercial focus will continue to be national in scope with growth expected in all targeted vertical markets. In those market segments, we will develop and realize projects from beginning to end as we have so often done in the past, but we are also offering our Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) service to project developers that have projects ready for realization and are looking for a bankable EPC partner. When I say bankable, I refer to our strong balance sheet and our history of positive profitability and cash flow.
What changes have you seen in the PV marketplace both in the U.S.A and worldwide, and what trends do you expect to see emerge in the next year?
The solar market is very dynamic and full of surprises. At the same time, I believe there are some longer-term trends. First, an obvious trend for all markets is the steady decline of system prices as incentives decrease while the payback and IRR expectations of our residential and commercial customers remain at similar levels. Our industry talks a lot about module price decreases, but customers care more about total system costs. As a result, we have and will continue to see a need to decrease the cost of sales and marketing, engineering, supply chain management, project planning and construction for companies to remain competitive over the long term. Second, industry consolidation will continue, especially in the U.S.A., where some of the largest downstream players are already owned by large conglomerates or manufactuers. It will be fascinating to see whether it is going to be five or 50 players dominating the market in 2015.
What do you foresee as big challenges for REC Solar in the next couple of years?
All the opportunities that I am seeing also represent challenges for us. Among the largest is the ability to scale rapidly while remaining profitable. Some of our fastest growing competitors have focused much more on top line rather than bottom line growth, while we intend to continue achieving both. Strong European companies are now entering the U.S. market and Fortune 1000 companies like United Technologies or GE might decide to build or buy operations spanning both up and downstream ends of the market. I believe that we are a flexible and nimble organization that knows our customer well and is prepared for the challenge, but that does not mean we can take our eyes off the ball for a minute.
Can you give us some sense how big REC Solar is and how fast you might be growing?
REC Solar, together with its sister company AEE Solar, is part of Mainstream Energy. Together, we currently have more than 600 employees and are established in more than a dozen states nationwide. In 2010, we deployed 63 MW of PV systems total and with the most megawatts of residential solar deployed across California, the company continues to hold its distinct market position as the state’s largest residential installer. Outside of California, the company also experienced significant growth with Colorado, Arizona and New Jersey recording double-digit gains, topped by a 110% year-over-year rise in revenues in Arizona. In addition to the growth in the residential market segment, the company secured commercial, federal and utility installation agreements totaling more than 27.2 MW in 2010.
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