The national solar engineering, procurement, construction, energy storage and O&M company, Conti Solar, recently announced it has completed or started 650 megawatts (MW) of solar projects since it began operations in 2004. Of the completed projects, several of the recent highlights are the 21 MW Rhode Island installation, 45 MW of distributed solar, and a 4 MW Ohio solar landfill project. The company has completed a little over 450 MW and is in the process of installing another 196 MW. Of the completed installations, 133 MW are landfill solar projects. Of the projects underway, just one highlight is the 55 MW of community solar installations in New York state.
Eric Millard, Chief Commercial Officer at Conti Solar, answered some questions for CleanTechnica about the company’s progress and plans.
1. How many MW of solar did Conti complete last year for comparison?
Conti Solar completed almost 150 MW in 2017.
2. Why did 2018 turn out to be a banner year for the company?
Conti Solar has a substantial track record of providing EPC services for successful large-scale solar projects across market segments. We’ve worked hard to get that message to the marketplace and this year we landed several milestone projects that emphasized our expertise in these areas. For example, Conti Solar is constructing a series of community solar projects in New York totaling 55 MW. We completed the largest (21 MW) solar project in Rhode Island which was constructed on very challenging terrain. We also constructed 45 MW of distributed generation solar projects for Eversource Energy and this year we built the largest landfill solar project in Ohio, which later won the Gold Solar Project of the Year Award from Solar Builder Magazine.
It’s also significant to mention that in early 2018, Ares EIF, part of the private equity group of Ares Management, became a majority owner of Conti Solar. Ares Management, L.P. is a publicly traded, leading global alternative asset manager with approximately $106 billion of assets under management and more than 15 offices in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia. This strategic move advanced Conti Solar’s financial capabilities and positioned the company as a highly bankable EPC, with over $200 million of bonding capacity, a strong balance sheet, and well established banking relationships to support continued growth. Conti Solar has over 100 employees and a diverse portfolio of solar power generation construction projects underway across the United States.
3. What do you have planned for 2019?
Conti Solar has leveraged its proven track record of success and extensive EPC experience installing large-scale solar projects and anticipates ongoing growth in the business in both the volume, geography, and size of projects.
The company has closely followed the energy storage market, both its trending growth and the challenging policy issues around Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Order 841. We have added our own Energy Storage Service, expanding our capabilities in the exciting arena of solar-plus-storage for utility-scale projects, and positioning our team to address the anticipated new opportunities.
With Conti Solar’s offices in Massachusetts, we have been an industry leader in this geography with an installation footprint of over 200 MW of solar power generation projects. Recently the state has launched the new Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target or SMART Program. We have already lined up a sizeable amount of work for SMART projects and are prepared to offer our services for more of these distributed generation projects.
The company will continue to expand our teams and vendors to support the growth of our national EPC business, remaining, as always, focused on delivering exemplary customer service.
4. How long did it take to complete the 4 MW Ohio landfill project?
Conti Solar completed the award-winning Cuyahoga landfill solar project in four months.
5. Same question for the New York 55 MW community solar project portfolio.
This is another milestone project both in size and because it is the largest community solar project in the state. With the staged construction notice to proceeds, it is a 10 month overall timeline, and Conti Solar expects to average 5 months per project.
6. What is the company roadmap for the next 3-5 years?
As a national player offering full turnkey EPC services, our main focus is our customer base. We will continue our emphasis on offering them the highest quality services and, building on that to strategically grow our business. We hire top-notch personnel and invest in them with internal and external training opportunities, so they are prepared to deliver the level of service customers expect from Conti Solar. This is a keystone in expanding our recurring customer base.
We will continue our work to prioritize pricing models and streamline costs. We track and analyze costs working across operations, suppliers and contractors to ensure costs are efficiently managed. This is one reason why vendor relationships are so critical. As we work to expand our vendor networks and solidify our relationships, we’ll be inducting new vendors into our program and monitoring their progress to meet our established standards.
Conti Solar is assessing new technologies and services across the solar supply chain that can deliver higher efficiencies and increased power yields – and there’s a lot out there. The potential advancement they offer is compelling, but they require careful vetting, planning and investment. These products and services are also part of the cost analysis equation. We are prudent in the vetting process to ensure we provide customers with the highest-quality products and services that are the best match for their project requirements.
7. If the next President is a Democrat and Republicans continue to lose seats in Congress, what will be the impact on solar power for those four years?
Typically the Democratic party has been supportive of renewable energy and thus we would anticipate policy support to continue the expansion of renewable, clean solar energy power generation in the US (utility and distributed generation), energy storage and electric vehicles. That said, we’ve seen continued growth in the industry under both Republican and Democratic leadership in both Congress and in the White House over the past decade and we would expect that support to continue. Regardless of which party is in power, we hope the future holds an emphasis on working toward bipartisanship and aligning interests to focus on the necessary work we need to accomplish to transition to sustainable clean energy for our country and the health of our planet.
8. How does the leadership try to foresee what will happen in the American solar power market?
Conti Solar leadership follows top political leaders, important industry organizations and leading analysts to gain perspective on industry developments. We factor in our own “in the trenches” experiences and ancillary data to assess market conditions. We plan accordingly and then edit in an element of flexibility to help us stay on course.
Image Credit: Conti Solar