Service provides green options
Ed Kelly and Steve Van Stee seek to do the opposite of an old business adage. They want to reduce demand before creating the supply.
This backwards-sounding mantra is indicative of the customer service-first mentality behind the business they have helped to craft in Shenandoah Energy Services.
The company is essentially a solar power firm based out of Edinburg that provides solar-powered energy to area residents and businesses. Kelly and Van Stee are two of the firm’s principals.
Since starting the company in July 2013, Kelly said they have installed solar panels at four residential homes and two commercial locations.
The firm’s latest completed commercial project is at environmentally friendly agriculture store Pot Town Organics in Strasburg.
Pot Town has been open since Oct. 4, 2014, and implementing the eight-rooftop solar panels was the latest step in a clean energy effort for the business.
Kelly said the project’s total cost, including implementation of preliminary work, was $20,000.
The men explained that the most complicated and costly part of installing a solar panel is in the prep work involved with figuring out the various components.
In the case of Pot Town, they had to figure out how much energy the business was expending, how to install the panels with ballast instead of drilling holes into the roof, and what angle to set the panels.
As Van Stee noted, the first question they ask customers on an initial auditing visit is, “What can we do to reduce your demand?” In this case, demand means energy output.
Kelly and Van Stee said that reduction can be as simple as the cost of replacing florescent light fixtures with energy-efficient track lighting with LED bulbs.
A replacement like that, Kelly said, can reduce energy output by as much as 50 percent, therefore lowering kilowatt-hours and reducing monthly energy costs.
Van Stee noted, “It’s much cheaper in the long run to replace those antiquated appliances than it is to … put up this huge solar array to power your outdated appliances.”
In fact, efficiency and longevity are among the reasons, along with reducing carbon footprints and technological advancement, they said makes solar energy a worthwhile investment.
Kelly said the solar panel systems they implement are essentially connected to the power grid used by companies such as Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative.
The two-way meter of their solar panel allows users like Janet and Ron Heishman, owners and operators of Pot Town Organics, to adjust how much energy is pulled from the grid, depending on the season.
“We are pushing it back in the summer, because they are not using that much,” he said, “The winter does not have that much [sunlight], so we pull it up.”
To add even more user-friendliness, Kelly said they connect users’ Wi-Fi to the panels so that they can “go online and see the system’s performance.”
“If there is any problem, you connect directly to Solar Edge (the company providing the power converters) … and they can go into the system inverter without showing up on the job,” Kelly said.
Looking ahead, Kelly and Van Stee are looking at four new projects on the docket for 2015, including a massive 80-panel effort at Sinclair Farm in Mount Jackson.
Much like the completed project at the Del Rey Farm in Strasburg, Kelly said they applied for a Rural Energy for America Program Grant to cover 25 percent of the cost.
Van Stee said that they are now in a period of “waiting for the funding to fall into place.”
Nevertheless, Van Stee said that they have already completed “a tremendous amount of preliminary work” including site visits and solar calculations.
“Once the funding falls into place,” he said, “Then we can get started.”
The cost of implementation for the project has been estimated at around $80,000. That revenue, noted Kelly and Van Stee, would work toward a large revenue spike for 2015.
According to Van Stee, Shenandoah Energy Services pulled $90,000 of revenue for 2014. He said he hopes to take that number to around $240,000 for 2015.
While they said that growth is a goal, they are cautious of too much growth.
“We don’t want to get too big, because we have a nice span of control over the quality,” Kelly said, adding, “We kind of like the personal touch.”
Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org