Then & Now
Sol Systems is deeply rooted in effective teamwork. Co-founders George Ashton (President) and Yuri Horwitz (CEO) started as track teammates in 2001 at their alma mater, William and Mary. After school, their career paths parted ways—George becoming a finance professional and Yuri a clean energy lawyer. Ultimately, George and Yuri re-joined forces in 2008 to form Sol Systems, consisting of 58 full-time employees and 8 interns across three (Washington DC, Philadelphia, San Francisco) office locations as of July 2016.
Each year for the past four years, Sol Systems has been recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest-growing companies in America and even more so in DC. The company’s significant growth parallels that of the overall industry. But what is it that specifically accounts for Sol Systems’ success? Despite many fitting answers, the essence is captured by two key concepts: forward-thinking and upholding a triple bottom line.
To facilitate the financing of over 450MW of solar energy to date, Sol Systems has looked beyond the horizon (both literally and figuratively). The company has evaded the complacency of any one business model and has instead consistently pivoted to build off the company’s strengths and keep on the cutting edge of the solar industry. For example, Sol Systems’ initial business line focused on aggregating solar renewable energy credits (SRECs), and the company has since added two additional business lines: structured finance and project acquisition (with another line set to launch in autumn 2016).
Andrew Gilligan, now heading investor acquisitions, began as an undergraduate intern on Sol Systems’ SREC Customer Service team before graduating and working full-time in 2011. A veteran team member, Andrew reflected on the company’s growth. “We’re taking on challenges,’ said Gilligan, “but only the ones we’re equipped to handle.” Such an anticipatory spirit is inherent to the company, and Andrew’s statement resonates with the thoughts of colleague Bridget Callahan. Like Andrew, Bridget joined Sol Systems when SRECs were its main source of revenue generation, and she currently manages the four-member SREC Customer Service team.
“SRECs are a unique state incentive structure that has been critical to adding solar in markets such as MA, NJ, MD, and DC. Sol Systems recognized the importance of SRECs early on,” said Callahan, “and we continue to help system owners and developers maximize SREC revenue today.”
The company is, of course, only as dynamic as the people constituting it. Noting trends among new hires, Bridget and Andrew similarly commented that everyone is very open, positive, and team-oriented–all factors contributing to the company’s agility as a small private firm. Andrew added that the team recruits those who are not only smart and adept at problem-solving but also passionate about deploying solar energy. In doing so, Sol Systems is an industry leader that continues to realize and raise the threshold of its potential.
Triple Bottom Line
Even with perpetual movement forward, the company remains focused on delivering its triple bottom line (i.e. People, Planet, Profit). Beyond profit, Andrew and Bridget emphasized how the company creates value for people and the environment. They also cited less obvious ways Sol Systems benefits its stakeholders besides helping build the clean energy sector. Bridget remarked that “Sol Systems has definitely shown that it wants to invest in the people. A key example is having an HR department focused on professional development for employees.” The adage that meaningful change starts from within is no exception to Sol Systems’ workplace—the company encourages a strong internal community that, in turn, extends to developers, investors, and other partners.
Describing the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability, Andrew shared that, “[Sol Systems team members] obviously finance solar projects, but we try to get people excited about it. We also do volunteer projects that help preserve the outdoors as best we can.” The company’s physical office space is an additional reflection of Sol System’s care for the environment; here, one can find composting and single-stream recycling as well as wind RECs purchased to help offset the office’s load.
In sum, Sol Systems’ promotion of social and environmental welfare is simultaneous to its economic success.
The company continues to welcome new hires, celebrate long-time employees, and foster community. So, what’s next for Sol Systems? The company’s scope of work is ever-broadening, but Sol Systems is certain to uphold its core values. After all, the organization is not only a business, but also a supportive team–not so different from the one that brought Yuri and George together before they founded Sol Systems.
ABOUT SOL SYSTEMS
Sol Systems is a leading solar energy investment and development firm with an established reputation for integrity and reliability. The company has financed approximately 450MW of solar projects, and manages over $500 million in assets on behalf of insurance companies, utilities, banks, and Fortune 500 companies.
Sol Systems works with its corporate and institutional clients to develop customized energy procurement solutions, and to architect and deploy structured investments in the solar asset class with a dedicated team of investment professionals, lawyers, accountants, engineers, and project finance analysts.