Tell us about your company, your role, and top priority or initiative over the next six months.
I’m with Solar Energy World and serve as both a meteorologist & solar advisor, which is great combo because I always like to say, now I get to focus mainly on just “the sunny part of the forecast.” Additionally, given my experience in solar over the past five years, and background in broadcast news, the company has seen fit to have me spearhead most of our media outreach efforts over the next few months as we launch into our next phase of growth at our exciting new headquarters in Laurel, Maryland.
Given the current and/or projected state of the economy, what has been the greatest challenge(s) you’ve faced so far or anticipate in 2023?
Well, the solar industry is fairly unique in that it is always ever-changing with things such as tax incentives, the utility rates we compete against, etc., so we are somewhat used to the phenomenon of changing economics. But I would say our biggest challenge in 2023 has been and will continue to be the increased cost of solar lending for homeowners who prefer to finance, due to the multiple hikes in the base rate by the Federal Reserve over the last 18 months. Fortunately for Solar Energy World, many of our clients are able to side-step these higher financing costs by either reallocating cash for this new investment based on the strong ROI, or opting for our unique solar “lease to own“ program where there is actually no need for them to take out a solar loan or pay any cash up front.
Are current market conditions or concerns about the economy later this year impacting your marketing plans, if so, how?
Since the solar energy competes directly against utility power, and because we can nearly always show a cost savings over conventional electricity, (especially over the long term), we are somewhat immune from consumers potentially cutting back on their discretionary spending. That said, one big challenge we have right now in the local solar space are a lot of new companies with sometimes questionable campaigns online with statements about solar that are not always completely true or factual.
What pressures are you experiencing that some may not understand or appreciate?
So I think one key marketing challenge for us moving ahead is possibly looking into how to dispel some of the myths that are now out there, which range from “solar is not cost effective” to “solar is completely free.” Essentially, in a sea of new energy marketing noise, we are working to further position ourselves as what we truly believe we are, which the trusted advisor for homeowners looking into solar energy in the Mid-Atlantic.
Does PR play a role in your overall marketing strategy and if so where does it provide the most value OR where does it fall short?
Developing a PR strategy, especially with the mainstream media is an interesting challenge from the perspective of a reputable and well-established solar company such as ours. For example, I have noticed many media outlets in recent years have aired the stories of homeowners “who got burned in the process of going solar” due to an unethical solar operator who may of misrepresented an incentive program, or how much power they would truly receive from the system. And I think a lot of conservative media still talk about how “greener options could never take the place of conventional energy.” Yet, I personally have hundreds of clients over the past five years (many quite conservative) who have flourished with their energy savings and paybacks from the high quality solar systems that we install for them. In fact, well over half of my business comes from word of mouth and referrals these days. So the bottom line is yes, like any other financial endeavour “buyer beware” definitely still applies. However, when solar is done right, you consistently end up with very happy and even ecstatic customers, and we need to find ways to get more of those positive stories and testimonials out there to the broader public.
Do you or your team currently leverage ChatGPT or another AI tool? How so?
Well like nearly all industries AI is steadily becoming a bigger part of the business. I think the biggest place you see it showing up in solar right now is with the ability to automate some of the optimal roof layouts and array designs for peak power production at a given property, long before the engineers even take a look at the hard measurements. Also, from a visualization stand-point, one awesome thing is there are even some online tools out there now where homeowners can use a bit of AI to do their own “mock up” of what solar modules might look like on their home once installed. A very cool way to get a sneak preview digitally before calling us in to get a full precision analysis.
What was the last book you read?
I just started reading “A Bright Future” by Goldstein & Qvist. The overall focus so far seems to be on efficiently changing our future global energy mix to dramatically reduce the emissions/overall pollution that comes from burning coal and gas for our electricity. Going into the book, I personally feel we will benefit most from far more solar deployment (I mean, just look around at all those empty rooftops that are available) – but the book also makes the case for adding quite a bit more nuclear energy to the grid (even though that is a very expensive undertaking). But hey, in the meantime solar is actually a form of nuclear when you think about it, or as I like to call it, “fusion energy from the sky!”
Learn more about and connect with Wyatt on LinkedIn.