Ellen Castle, A1A Solar Contracting

For the 10th anniversary of the Top Solar Contractors list, we’re sharing Q&As with the people who make the industry run every day. Read more interviews here.

How did you get started with solar energy?

I have always been interested in renewable energy. I knew that to change industries I would have to “learn” and come to the table with some knowledge of solar energy. After doing some research, I found that the NABCEP certification was valued in the industry. I attended a one-week hands-on class at the US Solar Institute in Ft. Lauderdale to get my NABCEP PV Associate Certificate. I knew I would need the hands-on, “butt-in-seat” approach, as solar was a complete change of my industry and more technical. It was like drinking from a fire hose!

Why did you decide to leave a 20-year career behind to work in the solar industry?

I am concerned about the environment and climate change. I wanted to do something that could have a positive impact. Both my parents (91 year olds) are a lifelong learner. They are still very much into intellectual subjects that they enjoy. With them as my role models, I also wanted to push myself to learn something new. I also wanted to show my 20-year-old children that change, even in the twilight of your career, is possible.

What is your favorite part of working in the solar industry?

Help educate my community (homeowners and commercial customers) about the benefits of solar PV and the positive role they can play in creating a more sustainable future.

What has surprised you most about the solar industry in the past 10 years?

I’ve only been in it for two years, but what I’ve observed is constant change, whether it’s due to new products coming to market or responding to our local market dynamics – COVID not ruled out! Never a boring moment; keeps my brain churning and learning. Very exciting!

What are your solar predictions for the next 10 years?

More change! I think it’s going to be an exciting ride with new technologies and innovations that will help us achieve the greenhouse gas reductions we need to turn the tide of climate change. I have great faith in the US’s ability to innovate and invent.

How did you/your company stand out in the past year?

Our owner, Pete Wilking, did a fantastic job navigating the “COVID rapids”. I really appreciated how open and transparent he was with the employees about the actions he was taking and why so that we could get to the other side of the pandemic and thrive. We collected and drummed up leads from all possible sources. We did not lose sight of the importance of quality in the sales process: educating our customers and helping them find the best solution to achieve their goals or complete an installation. Quality has always been paramount.

How do you help improve the industry?

Commercial customers come to us with the idea of ​​solar PV without the context of sustainability. I teach them the importance of having a sustainability and/or resilience plan, in which solar PV plays an important role. On a more personal level, integrity is very important to me and I think my clients feel and appreciate that.

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