Aloha: Sunetric moves to Denver with solar power to sell

Sunetric Inc., a Hawaii solar power design and installation company, has set its sights on the U.S. mainland and plans to use its Denver office as its headquarters for the other 49 states.

CEO Alex Tiller is part of a two-man team in Denver, sharing the company’s Cherry Creek office with Tyler Fauerbach, managing director of corporate finance.

Sunetric, founded in 2004, had $52 million in revenue in 2012, up from $42 million in 2011, and installed about 16 megawatts of solar power companywide last year, Tiller said. The company has between 120 and 150 employees, depending on the season, and has installed a total of about 60 megawatts worth of solar power systems since it started operations.

The Denver Business Journal talked about the company with Tiller, its plans and the issues surrounding the solar power industry today. Here’s an edited excerpt from the conversation.

You’ve been successful in Hawaii. Why shift your attention to the mainland?

A: We have a good operation in Hawaii and it will get bigger on the mainland. There’s a bigger hiring pool and a larger market here on the mainland. We opened the Denver office in 2011, along with an office in Washington, D.C., which we opened to take advantage of our work with the Department of Defense and other federal projects in Hawaii.

We are a full-service, renewable-energy company. When you are 2,300 miles out, in the middle of the ocean, you have to do it yourself. We have finance staff, sales, marketing, engineering, construction, construction management — everything other than the manufacturing side of the business.

Why make Denver the company’s mainland headquarters?

A: There’s a great deal of activity here in the solar power market. And there are a lot of people here who can really add to our team.

Plus, Denver is central. I fly a lot and it’s convenient to be parked in the middle of the country, just one plane ride away from nearly everywhere in the country.

What’s the biggest challenge for the solar industry today?

A: It used to be financing, because there wasn’t enough liquidity to get across the finish line on projects. But I think that will change in the next 12 to 18 months.

Right now the industry is focused on the soft costs. The price of the hard elements — the panels, inverters and racking [to hold the panels] — have had price compression in the last few years.

The new focus needs to be on the soft side, the engineering, cost of customer acquisition, permitting. We are focused on how to reduce those soft costs.