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5Q Interview: Dean Santa, Founder and CEO of Solanta

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Introducing a new segment on the blog: the 5Q Interview! In this feature, Solanta employees are asked 5 questions, about their history in solar, their thoughts on the industry, their job function, etc. For the first edition of the 5Q Interview, who better to speak with than the reason we’re all here: Dean, the founder and CEO of Solanta!

Solanta Founder and CEO, Dean Santa

What brought you into the world of solar energy? What kept you in?

It was in 2014 when my family and I were approached about having solar panels installed that would reduce our monthly electric bills for zero dollars down. It sounded too good to be true, but it also sounded like a great opportunity to do something good for the environment that also saved us money, so we signed up. It took almost a year before they were ready to install them, and we sort of forgot we were even approached in the meantime, but once they were up, I grew more curious, and solar became this phenomena that I wanted to understand better. For example, I wanted to understand why something so helpful to the environment and people’s wallets wasn’t more prevalent than it was.

How did you work your way through the industry before eventually starting your own company?

Two months after having our installation done, a friend who had started working as a door-to-door canvasser for a solar company asked me to come work with him. I worked hard and asked everyone above me to teach me how to understand the economics of solar. I grew into a sales position over time, and eventually became a sales manager with my own territory.

When accounting issues crippled our company, I took an opportunity to start a new Solar sales team for a roofing contractor who had just moved into the solar business. In under a year, we had increased company revenue by over 850%.

After a terrible fire destroyed my home, my family and I were left without the resources to re-build. It gave me a newfound desire for independence, as I had built a multi-million dollar business, and yet, I was helpless. I took my life’s savings, started Solanta, and I haven’t looked back since.

What experiences from your time at other companies did you apply when founding Solanta?

I’ve had the fortune to work for some great companies and I learned a lot of good from my time with each of them. I moved through sales and into marketing when I needed to generate leads for my sales team, learning some of what goes into the process that puts leads into the sales funnels I was so familiar with. I learned operations and construction when one company expanded so rapidly that we needed to hire and train new staff quickly to process the work. I learned the value of accounting and preparing for financial hiccups when one company couldn’t pay out their customers their referral fees. Most importantly, through all of my past work, I learned the importance of empathy: the staff are the life blood of a business, and their importance can’t be understated.

What differentiates Solanta from other Solar companies?

Our resolve to leave no customer behind. If there’s a way to make solar possible for your home, we’ll find it. We can remove hatches, skylights and other obstructions, repair or replace roofs and electrical service panels, and we can build solar structures like tilt arrays and canopies to maximize the space and energy production. We also use these structures to install flat roofs, which is a market of under-served customers that some other solar companies outright ignore.

What do you think is the most exciting upcoming technological/industrial development in solar?

I’m looking towards a larger adoption of home energy storage for a few reasons: it’s already becoming popularized by companies like LG Chem, and Tesla with their Powerwall product, it allows homeowners to become independent of the grid, which is powerful considering the growing number of electrical power failures we’re experiencing, and In markets where net-metering is being phased out and time-of-use programs are taking over, batteries also allow you to store power for the hours when prices are higher due to the demand on the utility grid. Home energy storage will continue the renewable energy revolution with how well it integrates with solar production systems. If regulations around batteries open up enough, or if batteries become much safer, I can see a future where a battery is included on a majority of solar installs.

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