A Long-Running History of Long Running: Sol Systems and Ragnar Relays

8 Nov 2018

It was 5:00 pm on a Saturday evening, and I found myself four miles into a run along the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean in Hampton, New Hampshire. Like most times I run, I was exhausted, pushing my body to keep moving, and keeping my mind focused on the goal. Unlike most times I run, I was completing the last stretch of a 30-hour, 36-leg, 200-mile Ragnar relay race ran by 12 Sol Systems employees that traversed much of the state. Ragnar, which has 200-mile courses across the country, is challenging, maddening, half-insane, and a long-running Sol Systems tradition.

Before the race, its tradition to decorate your van in marker.

This summer’s Reach the Beach event in New Hampshire was the company’s fifth Ragnar, which is fitting given that Sol’s founders, Yuri Horwitz and George Ashton (who participated in this year’s race), met on the track and field team at the College of William & Mary. In 2014 and 2015, team members ran from Cumberland, Maryland to Washington, D.C., the company’s home. In 2016, the team switched coasts, and ran 200 miles across Napa Valley in California. Last year, the team weathered the Florida heat, running 200 miles in and around Miami. This year, the team ran from Breton Woods, New Hampshire all the way to the beach, traversing most of the state. That’s good for 1,000 miles over 5 years.

Regardless of the course, the set-up is the same: teams split up into two vans, with runners 1 through 6 in one van and runners 7 through 12 in the other. While one van runs, the other van rests and prepares, but the machine is always turning and someone is always running. As runners reach their second and third turn, they must rely on increasingly sore and tired legs. Runners find themselves running through pain and exhaustion at ungodly hours of the morning. Sleep is preferred but often hard to come by.

This may not sound very fun, but in a kind of sick way, it is. I’m not a runner. In fact, I’ll make any excuse not to run, but Ragnar offered a familiar challenge. In many ways, solar development mirrors the race. Like a relay, when a solar project is being vetted by our development team, they “pass the baton” to our engineering team to design an optimal site layout. The next hand off is to our investment team to secure financing on the project. Finally, we hand the project off to our delivery team, who is responsible for bringing the project to the finish line. Like the rest of the Sol Systems team, I embrace being a part of these business challenges, and I easily embraced Ragnar.

The Sol Systems team poses at the finish line.

Our relay team, fittingly named “The Mad Ones” in an ode to Kerouac, has been formed by a different group of Sol employees each year, and new participants are encouraged to join the crew. In solar, our team is fighting together every day for a cleaner, more renewable world against the many challenges thrown at the industry. It takes a team willing to face these challenges together to achieve big things. Whether its running 200 miles in a day or helping our country transition to renewable energy, Sol Systems accomplishes its goals with a team effort.


Sol Systems, a national solar finance and development firm, delivers sophisticated, customized services for institutional, corporate, and municipal customers. Sol is employee-owned, and has been profitable since inception in 2008. Sol is backed by Sempra Energy, a $25+ billion energy company.

Over the last ten years, Sol Systems has delivered 700 MW of solar projects for Fortune 100 companies, municipalities, universities, churches, and small businesses. Sol now manages over $650 million in solar energy assets for utilities, banks, and Fortune 500 companies.

Inc. 5000 recognized Sol Systems in its annual list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies for four consecutive years. For more information, please visit www.solsystems.com

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William Patterson

William Patterson