Solar firm’s EV + PV strategist looks to future

dgJust six months ago Cary Hayes didn’t know much about electric cars and EV charging stations, but Hayes, director of business development for REC Solar, one of the largest residential solar installers in the U.S., has become a relative expert on solar-charged driving in a short amount of time.

In fact, he spends about one-third of the 70 or so hours he works per week focused specifically on developing EV strategies for REC Solar.

[Full disclosure: REC Solar installed our 5.59 kW system here in Aurora, Colo.]

REC Solar has own EV strategist
That Hayes is spending so much time working to develop an EV strategy for a solar company, a strategy that is now beginning to be implemented by REC Solar, shows just how much, and how quickly, solar-charged driving is taking off in the U.S.

coseia-hayes Sooner or later everyone’s going to see the synergy between solar and EVs.
–Cary Hayes, Director of Business Development, REC Solar

I met with Hayes recently in downtown Denver, and his excitement about PV + EV was literally written on his face and in the energy of his voice. He smiled nearly continuously and talked fast, fast, fast as he described what REC Solar has been doing in the past half year to position itself as a leader in the fast-growing area of EV + PV synergy.

And why not? What’s not to smile about when it comes to solar-charged driving, especially if you’re a residential solar installer.

Take, for instance the fact that American households that add an EV are suddenly going to be drawing, on average, an extra 2,500 to 3,000 kWh per year. Or take the fact that, according to Hayes, who’s working to create business ties with GM, Nissan and BMW, among others, internal auto industry surveys appear to be confirming what veteran EV + PV advocates have known for a long time: Up to 40% of early EV adopters either already have solar, have added home solar, or want to add home solar in the near future.

Doing the Future EV + PV math
Hayes eyes light up when he does the future math on new EV buyers who also end up buying solar.

“They’re predicting one million new plug-ins on the road in the next five years so,” notes Hayes. “Let’s say the percentage of buyers who get solar goes down after the early adopters. Even if only 10 percent of new EV owners buy a home solar system, that’s 100,000 new residential systems in the U.S. That’s huge – there are only about 180,000 residential systems in the U.S. currently.”

The growth potential EVs represent for solar installers is the reason that REC Solar has recently partnered with GE and will be working to install WattStation EV charging stations for current and new REC Solar customers with electric cars (no price has been decided upon yet). It’s the reason that it’s partnered with Revenge of the Electric Car Director Chris Paine, who has a 20 kW REC Solar system on his California home, to sponsor the film. And it’s the reason that REC Solar – led by its new EV + PV point man – is, according to Hayes, close to working out a cross-promotion partnership with a major automaker similar to partnerships recently set up by, among others, Ford and SunPower, Nissan and SunPower, and, in New Zealand, SolarCity and Mitsubishi.

cnTapping the EV + PV synergy
“The synergy was already there,” says Hayes of EV + PV. “The automakers just had to figure out how to tap into it – and now they are.”

While some other major solar installers were quicker to the EV + PV punch than REC Solar – for instance, SolarCity, arguably the industry leader in this respect, at least among large solar installers, Hayes thinks his company is still ahead of most of the solar industry in the race to tap the solar-charged driving revolution.

“It’s such a brand new game,” he explains.

Hayes figures REC Solar is about six months to a year ahead of much of the rest of the U.S. solar industry on EV + PV. However, he knows that lead will shrink rapidly, due to what he sees as the inevitable recognition among solar installers, auto makers and EV charging station producers of the powerful, and lucrative, solar-charged driving synergy.

“The senior executives [at other solar installers] are starting to figure it out. Sooner or later, everyone is going to see the synergy,” he explains.

Big future dividends
In the meantime, REC Solar continues to forge ahead, convinced of the value of integrating EV into its PV selling strategies.

ll“From a strategy perspective, EV charging stations are not our core business,” says Hayes of the GE WattStation + REC Solar partnership, which, he says, could see REC Solar offer WattStations to customers who chose a solar leasing option essentially for “free”. “But it’s going to yield big dividends down the road.”

REC Solar has begun to keep track of prospective residential solar customers who indicate they want to buy an EV and is now ready to pitch both PV and EV, plus, of course, EV charging station installation to that customer. According to Hayes, REC Solar is already set up to do WattStation installations thanks to the fact that it already employs licensed electricians to work on home solar installations.

EV buyers interested in home solar
In fact, says Hayes, REC Solar currently has about 250 prospective customers who want to buy a home solar system precisely because they already have an EV – or will soon have one. The company wouldn’t have known about this had it not been asking prospective customers directly about their interest in EVs. Now, it can pitch both a home solar system and an GE WattStation installation to these prospective customers.

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The new knowledge about customers means potential extra business for REC Solar, both at the time of installation, and, perhaps in the future, if, for instance, homeowners with one EV, decide to add another EV and need to build out their PV system in order to produce more, personally generated, clean, green, electricity for their electric vehicles.

Of course, while REC Solar is at the front of the curve on solar-charged driving, there’s plenty more to be learned and, ideally, if you’re Hayes, analyzed and turned into a mechanism for growing REC Solar’s share of the burgeoning U.S. solar market.

“We are in the very early stages of discovering what customers want,” says Hayes. “But it’s clear it’s going to be a huge opportunity.”

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