Powering a Solar Future: In Conversation with Sumit Bhatnagar, President & CEO – GreenBrilliance

Powering a Solar Future: In Conversation with Sumit Bhatnagar, President & CEO – GreenBrilliance

12 January 2021 5 min read

A leading solar solution provider for homes and businesses in tri-state (DMV) Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia, GreenBrilliance continues to delight its customers with high-quality products and service excellence. The company has a proven track record of delivering trust and transparency over more than a decade of operations. It has been named one of the top 200 solar contractors in the USA by Solar Power World and #1 solar contractor in D.C.

President and CEO Sumit Bhatnagar founded GreenBrilliance in 2007 when the general perception of solar energy among Americans was a farm of solar panels at the center of a desert or a field.

To find out how solar has changed over the years, where it is headed and what makes GreenBrilliance stand out, we spoke to Sumit on the eve of the New Year. Here are excerpts from our conversation.

Q. You’ve been in this industry for more than a decade. How has solar changed over the years, especially from when you founded GreenBrilliance?

It has changed significantly! Back in 2010, the panels costed 12 times what they do now. The market was new and small and heavily depended on subsidiaries. There weren’t many players in the market, and people were not aware of solar energy and its benefits. So, naturally, people were not very receptive to the idea that they can use solar energy for their homes or offices.

You compare that with now, and you see a completely different picture. Climate change is something every person knows and talks about. It has taken a center stage in the global economy. So, they are more aware of the value of solar and other renewables, not only in terms of cost savings but also in reducing the carbon footprint and contributing to a greener future. There is a lot of information available on the benefits of solar and how it is continuously becoming more efficient and affordable. The awareness has accelerated solar adoption, especially among households.

Solar efficiency has gone up, costs have come down, and manufacturers have improved processes. The overall effect is solar adoption has increased over the last decade. That’s good news for businesses, homeowners, and the planet.

Q. 2020 was a challenging year for almost all industries. How do you think the solar sector fared during the pandemic?

It did quite well actually, given the unusual circumstances we found ourselves in. The year started exceptionally well. The first three months made for the best quarter ever for the industry in terms of total installations. Then the pandemic arrived, and the second quarter took a hit. But Q3 onwards, the industry recovered beyond expectations.

We witnessed an uptick in the number of customers choosing to go solar amid the pandemic, and it was very encouraging. The cost and energy efficiencies that customers have garnered in these unprecedented times have made their transition well worth it. From an industry perspective, the latest estimates are putting the total growth in 2020 to be more than 40% over 2019, which is incredible.

Overall, we have seen the costs of panels decreasing over the years, while some innovations are increasing the efficiency of panels. So, the value of solar is rising, and I see it continuing this way.

Q. Amid tight competition, what does GreenBrilliance do differently?

The short answer is, we believe in delivering value. Today, there are many players in the solar industry. Most of them speak the language of sales and numbers. They work on a ‘sell-and-move-on’ approach. This is where we are different. Our focus is purely on high-quality “Made in America” installations and long-term customer relationships. We care about our customers, the products we are installing for them, the service, and satisfaction. We are invested into our customers emotionally as well as financially. As you can imagine, it takes significant resources to honor bumper-to-bumper warranties of 25-years on our installation deliveries.

Some players are less committed towards the quality of solar panels they offer or the service. This does make the customers apprehensive about whether they should adopt solar and affects the industry.

As an independent third-party endorsement, we have partnered with Pearl Certification. This makes the customers aware of the value they are getting, besides giving them a sense of trust. We also ensure that they understand the value solar adds to their home, which is reflected when it is time to sell the house or refinance or even get a home equity line of credit for renovations or upgrades.

We have seen our relationships with our customers grow stronger over the years. It is okay if we grow slow, as long as we grow strong.

Q. GreenBrilliance offers financing options where there are no upfront payments. Could you elaborate on that?

Yes, we have a range of flexible financing options to make solar adoption more affordable. For example, a 25-year plan with 2.99% APR, one of the best terms you can get in financing anything. You cannot even finance your home or a car on these terms. So, you can imagine the reliability and trust the banks have on solar energy products and their performance.

For customers who don’t have a tax equity and cannot take advantage of a 26% investment tax credit, we offer PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) terms where they have no solar expense at all and get savings on their electric bills for a minimum of 20 years. We have such attractive options for every type of customer, so it would probably be irresponsible to not go solar today.

Experts have estimated that the resale value of a home increases by $5,000 for every kilowatt of solar installed. Add to that the investment tax credit that allows you to recover 26% of your installation costs. These are very real and incredible benefits of adopting solar and should not be ignored.

Q. What is the role of solar batteries in a home solar power system?

Batteries are a crucial partner to a solar energy solution, and together they bring complete energy independence to customers. A solar battery storage can take care of excess power requirement during nights or help with power needs during a blackout in the grid. This market is significantly growing, indicating an uptick in the number of customers going for the PV-battery storage system for their energy consumption.

There are some technical aspects that need to be understood before buying a battery—the capacity, discharge depth, lifespan, round-trip efficiency, etc. These depend on the customer’s energy consumption needs and financial appetite. We are certified providers of Tesla Powerwall and LG Chem batteries, both leaders in the energy storage front, and we facilitate consultation for our customers on what is the best battery solution for their needs.

Q. How do you see the future of the solar industry?

I am very confident that 2021 is going to be great. Because of the pandemic and lockdowns, many projects scheduled in 2020 had to be moved to 2021 as well. Add to that the increasing demand, and you clearly have a year of unprecedented prospects. We have seen the reappearance of bifacial modules that allow panels to capture solar energy from both sides. This will also be quite significant.

Congress has extended 26% solar investment tax credit for the next two years, which is a testament to the solar industry and sets it up for significant growth.

The cost-innovation-efficiency dynamic is going well for the industry, and the next decade will be truly exciting.