WASILLA — An Alaskan grown business was recognized as one of the top 500 solar contractors in the nation on July 24.
Arctic Solar Ventures, owned and founded by Stephen Trimble, was the first Alaskan solar company to be added to the Solar Power World magazine’s yearly list.
“Most people don’t think of Alaska as a nationally competitive place for solar,” said Anchorage-born Trimble, who started his company three-and-a-half years ago.
Before ASV, Trimble, who was running his own consulting business, didn’t think it was either at first, until out-of-state solar companies began coming to him with interest in starting up projects in Alaska.
His uncle, owner of the Agate Inn on the Palmer-Wasilla Highway, had been using solar to run his business for years.
“He just kept telling me, ‘There’s an opportunity here. There’s an opportunity. You should start a solar company.’ And he would just tell me that for like ten years,” Trimble said.
The entrepreneur in him eventually gave in, and he began to develop an enterprise that not only installs solar panels unique to Alaska, but involves itself heavily in the community as well. ASV engineers every project they do, whether it’s needed or not, according to Trimble. All of their hardware and panels are black to help melt snow more quickly, and the company can also install vertical panels that won’t be covered by or catch snow.
“A solar business is a really curious mix of a construction company, which is building projects, but then we do financing, and we do design work, and we do engineering, and we have materials being shipped from all over the world,” he said.
Trimble attributes three main drivers to when his clients make the decision to go solar. The first is the federal tax credit available to homeowners or businesses that covers 30 percent of the cost of the project. A good portion of the ASV client base is also soon-to-be retired or already retired people on a fixed-income who want to lower their monthly bills.
“In most instances, when we do solar on a house, it’ll generate between 60 and 90 percent of their annual electricity,” he said.
Then there are the environmental benefits. Solar is a clean energy source that’s abundant forever, according to Trimble. The Anchorage-based company installs about 180 panels in a month and works on three to four houses per week ranging anywhere from Homer to Sutton.
Referrals have also increased the popularity of solar.
“The knowledge of all parties involved has gone way up. So we’ve seen costs go down. We’ve seen more homeowners and consumers being interested in it,” Trimble said.
ASV installs solar, but they have also helped to educate the community they serve. In 2017, ASV gave 350 hours of their time to community and educational programs. Trimble brings his company to schools and campuses to speak with students about solar, and they also recently helped a girl scout troop put solar panels on Chugach Optional Elementary in Anchorage.
Part of this community service effort has to do with the fact that ASV is a Certified B Corporation, which requires an organization to not only take into account their duty to make a profit, but also their commitment and contributions to their community and the environment in their decision-making process. The B Corp stamp impacts everything from how they treat their employees to who they use as suppliers.
“It’s sort of like fair trade certification for coffee, but it’s for business,” Trimble said.
The panels that Trimble installs last for up to 30 years, but ASV will likely not run out of customers any time soon - they’ve grown by 300 percent every year since their beginnings.
We’re not called the Land of the Midnight Sun for nothing,” he said.