Written by Robert Leitch.
When looking for alternative energy solutions, a growing number of businesses and families are looking to harness the sun’s natural energy to reduce their monthly electric bills. The biggest roadblock preventing a majority of these plans, however, is the cost of solar panels. Ecolibrium Solar CEO Jan van der Werff knew his company had two options to reduce the price tag for customers – either cut the cost of the components in the panels themselves, or lessen the time it takes to install them.
“One of the things largely ignored in the solar panel industry is installation time,” said van der Werff. “We’ve created one of the fastest to install products on the market. Our installation takes about 12 minutes per panel. The industry standard is 15.”
Companies that install solar panels are in high demand and often have high fixed labor costs. Instead of making customers fight for lower rates from installers, Ecolibrium’s mounting system provides cost savings by reducing the amount of time these installers need to put panels in place. The mounts are simply ballasted on roofs, meaning they don’t need to be screwed into the building. The time saved using this process translates to money saved for customers.
“Ecolibrium is unique in the solar industry because we make sure our designs are beneficial to the end user,” said van der Werff. “Our product may be more expensive to buy, but the total product cost is cheaper because you are able to put in the same size system in just two-thirds the time.”
The approach is clearly working. From 2013 to 2014, Ecolibrium’s mounting system sales grew 780 percent. This is due to strong commercial sales and the introduction of a new residential product that was quickly accepted by several key residential installers. To accommodate this growth, the company is expanding both their team and their facilities. What started with founder Brian Wildes and one salesperson has become a team of 27, with plans to hire as many as seven new employees in 2015.
Ecolibrium launched in 2011 after working with TechGROWTH Ohio, the southeast regional partner of Ohio Third Frontier. The TechGROWTH team assisted Ecolibrium with their business plan and staffing, along with funding to help with final development, launch and validation of their product. In addition to TechGROWTH, Ecolibrium also received networking opportunities and rented office/lab space from the Ohio University Innovation Center, another Ohio Third Frontier partner in the region.
“Ecolibrium is the company we are today thanks to TechGROWTH’s constant support,” said van der Werff. “The team there has helped us jump every hurdle and continues to help us to this day. The combination of funding opportunities and business services they offer is a homerun for any entrepreneur.”