People of the 10th anniversary Top Solar Contractors list: Tom Wu, Invaleon Solar

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 in solar energy?

During my senior year of college, I had to make a very difficult decision. There were two options: enter the highly competitive job market or start my own business. At the time, the Great Recession caused a great scarcity of jobs. Fortunately, my degree was mechanical engineering, so I was equipped with the right skills to handle the competitive environment. I decided to put my time and energy into learning all about renewable energy. After countless hours of research and educating myself on all things solar installation and technology, I started a new company called Invaleon Technologies Corporation, later to be known as Invaleon Solar!

I reached out to my friends and family and also went door to door to build a residential solar customer base. I built credibility not only for my business, but also for the widespread adoption of solar energy as an affordable and reliable source of energy. I believe my success can be attributed to spending time educating the general public about the benefits of solar energy, including understanding federal, state and local solar policies and incentives.

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

I am constantly trying new things. The solar industry is always evolving and driving me and my team to challenge, improve and expand each other. Working in the solar industry is inspiring because I can see the meaningful impact it makes and collaborate with new and emerging generations of innovators.

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

I am most amazed at the willingness of everyone in the industry to help each other. The level of collaboration is unparalleled.

What are your solar predictions for the next 10 years?

I predict that solar energy and storage will become a necessity. In addition, I expect that we will replace enough fossil fuels to reverse harmful climate change.

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

Invaleon not only managed to stay in business during a global pandemic, but remained fully operational and even hired additional employees. We were able to obtain PPE quickly and have implemented COVID-19 protocols and practices to keep our customers and employees safe. Invaleon was able to show its resilience at a time that could have left us very vulnerable.

How do you help improve the industry?

Invaleon is an integral member of the solar community and industry. Our company helps improve the industry by building a responsible and growing business. The more talented and passionate professionals Invaleon can employ, the more mature the industry will become. Invaleon is part of two programs to train the next generation of solar providers: a co-op and college internship program for high schools. As a direct result of the programs, several students were offered full-time employment and are now employed by Invaleon.

What was it like entering the market in 2011?

Literally, like a cowboy in the Wild West. However, as a Massachusetts resident, I had a good reason to start a solar energy company. In April 2007, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced a target of 250 MW of solar by 2017. At that time, only about 3 MW of solar had been built in the state. To help with such aggressive renewable energy targets, Governor Patrick worked with lawmakers to pass several key policies, including the Green Communities Act, Global Warming Solutions Act, and the Green Jobs Act. This policy is credited with helping Massachusetts meet and exceed its solar installation targets!

How has your solar business changed since it started?

We spent a lot of time formalizing many roles, responsibilities and processes. Invaleon now has approximately 40 employees and serves customers in the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. Invaleon not only installs solar energy and battery storage, but has all services in-house, including engineering, procurement and construction. Invaleon has installed over 50 MW of residential and commercial solar and continues to lead the way in creating a brighter future for New England and beyond!

The greatest achievement is our size and the wide range of careers and disciplines we have. We have craftsmen, engineers, marketing, sales, development and support all under one roof. A company is only as good as its team, so it’s crucial that the right people are present and that everyone works together.

What advice would you give to yourself or the company ten years later in 2011?

My advice is to hold on and be creepy. While Invaleon has many milestones to celebrate, there is still so much work to be done. The renewable energy sector is always evolving, and so is Invaleon. Every day presents me and my team with new and exciting challenges. The solar industry is still not done growing, so the excitement and anticipation continues as we discover how this industry will morph into its final form. You just have to be progressive and flexible to change with whatever happens. Invaleon is ready. Bring it on!

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