Solar power: Firm rides ups and downs of renewable energy
Maintaining a bright spot in the solar energy industry hasn't always been easy, but one family-owned company has continued to maintain its base in Paradise.
Paradise Township, that is.
Since its inception nearly 10 years ago, Lancaster County-based solar panel installer Paradise Energy Solutions LLC has helped its customers harness the power of the sun to create electricity. The business has grown to 65 employees, a reported $15.99 million in revenue last year, and expanded its footprint outside of Pennsylvania and into Maryland, New York, Ohio, Delaware, Virginia and New Jersey.
When Paradise first opened, there was a significant demand for solar installation services, but demand started to fall off as state and federal incentives declined, said Larry Beiler, estimating manager for the company.
“It was kind of a solar-coaster. There were strong demands that just dropped off,” he said. “As a result, some businesses folded up or went back to their core businesses.”
Opening offices in other states, Beiler said, helped the company weather that storm.
The company also started to diversify. As other companies started to fade, Paradise began offering repair and maintenance of solar panels. The business also started to invest in electric-vehicle chargers and batteries.
“As solar and other renewables become a larger part of our energy production, we’ll need batteries to capture the power when there’s a lot of sun available,” Beiler said.
Some states like Massachusetts have started to set solar energy-storage goals to create backup power during inclement weather. Massachusetts has set a target of 200 megawatt-hours of energy storage by 2020.
Though Pennsylvania has not set any storage initiatives in motion, Beiler said they are on the horizon.
Another benefit of batteries is helping to mitigate challenges from one of the biggest enemies of solar production: shade.
Occasional clouds notwithstanding, the amount of solar in the U.S. has grown from 1.1 gigawatts in 2007 to an estimated 47.1 gigawatts in 2017, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s office of energy efficiency and renewable energy.
And while numbers vary by location, solar prices have dropped by 80 percent in the last eight years, said John Quigley, director of the Center for Environment, Energy & Economy at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.
“Prices are falling by 10 percent each year and don’t appear to be stopping anytime soon,” he said, noting that the market has become more competitive.
Panels also have become more efficient: Today’s devices are able to capture and convert more of the sun’s rays into electricity.
“When I first started in the industry eight years ago, a common panel could capture and convert 220 watts of instant power. Today, that same panel can get up to 360 watts,” Beiler said.
As solar energy continues to evolve and more and more people are introduced to its technology, Beiler anticipates the industry will see another upswing.