The Sol Story
Many of us have an opportunity to do good work in the world. Work that is both impactful and fulfilling. Work that we can be proud of. I have always been drawn to work that changes the way we live in balance with the world, and that gives something back to the community. We established Sol Systems with the express purpose of creating a vehicle for people to do this work with us, to be part of something that is meaningful, impactful and lasting. That was the spark that lit this company in 2008. Today that work is more important than ever.
Sol has grown since from two dear friends around a dining room table to a professional team of over 100 people. We worked incredibly hard to get off the ground. At inception, life was an insane combination of two full time jobs, late nights, no-sleep nights with a writing pad next to the bed, and 12-18 hours days. That journey helped shape our culture and seared into many of us an overwhelming desire to succeed and a work ethic to match. Establishing, running and then scaling this company in the intervening years has been a multi-year marathon of determination, resiliency, fortitude and gratification for many of us. It has required full alignment between our self-narrative and direction. It has been a beautiful journey.
We began Sol in 2008 aggregating and financing solar renewable energy credits (SRECs), a relatively new environmental commodity that was absolutely critical to the economics of solar projects on the East Coast at the time. SREC aggregation wasn’t our long-term goal. We just knew making solar incentives function properly was critical to the success of the market. We set out to focus on a discrete business that delivered significant value to the solar industry by solving a complex problem. And we understood that for the SREC market to function, energy suppliers and utilities needed volume – otherwise transactions would not occur. We picked up the phone and started calling energy companies and utilities that needed to procure SRECs, worked with multiple state public service commissions to help them set up SREC markets, and worked doggedly to create long-term channel partnerships with developers and construction companies to aggregate customers. Others in the industry would comment, “wow, that’s super complex and boring, glad you’re doing it.” That was tremendously reassuring to us. We wanted to be doing the hard work, and doing it well, that nobody else was drawn to. We haven’t looked back since.
A consistent thesis in our business since we began is that if we deliver value by solving complex or challenging problems, we capture value, and can build a profitable business that we can leverage into other ventures in the future.
In 2012 we took the next step in our journey. At the time many of the SREC markets were the primary markets for commercial customers investing in solar on the East Coast. However, the market was bogged down because of high transaction costs, access to capital, the challenge of aggregating volume, and the complexity of customer credit. In short, the market was struggling with many of the same problems we had been working on for years. We saw an opportunity that also worked with our goal of expanding to much more than just an SREC aggregation company, but a challenging one that fit our propensity to tackle the hard problems.
Our team leveraged and expanded our network of solar developer partners within the industry to develop two new business models: (1) a fund management business to deploy tax equity into the solar industry and (2) a leading platform for financing smaller distributed generation solar projects on behalf of strategic accounts. We began working with Nationwide Insurance Company and Washington Gas Holdings Inc. in these two businesses and quickly expanded upon these partnerships, earning a reputation for excellence and working with close to a dozen other clients in the solar industry.
In the last two years we have built Sol Systems into three discrete businesses: (1) Sol Trading, (2) Sol Fund & Asset Management and (3) Sol Customer Solutions. We have developed and/or financed over 850 MW of solar projects (valued at more than $1 billion). We have set up and successfully deployed an infrastructure fund called Helios with our partners at Nationwide. We have transitioned our development business from a project origination model focused on acquiring assets from other developers to a direct origination model where we now are providing renewable energy solutions to hundreds of commercial, industrial, institutional and municipal customers. Our trading business has evolved from a SREC aggregation platform to one of the premiere environmental commodity portfolios in the country, trading SRECs, RECs and carbon credits. We manage thousands of client accounts and have a proprietary fund that is active in solar and wind energy credits, carbon and soon electricity.
We think these business models are complementary. Our trading business informs and helps us manage our physical assets, and vice versa. Our development business informed us on how to structure and develop solar infrastructure assets for Helios. Our development business has influenced the way we look at environmental commodity markets and take risks. This diversified business model has also allowed Sol to be profitable since inception and weather the many ups and downs of the industry. It has also allowed us to build what we believe is the most capable team within the industry. A team we plan to expand.
Looking ahead, Sol will continue to focus on building a more sustainable infrastructure in the United States, and perhaps beyond. We will remain focused on solar energy in the short-term but plan to expand into investing in other renewable asset classes and sustainable infrastructure in the coming years. We’ll continue to focus on doing hard things well, creating value for our partners, customers and future generations. We remain committed to doing good, inspiring, work.
I am most proud of the people that have built this place over the years. There is nothing more fulfilling than building something with people you respect, people that challenge you, people that share your passion, people you can learn from, and people that you care about. I feel fortunate and enormously indebted to all of them and to our partners. I remain fully committed to building the future with them and achieving our common vision.