Solar contractor enables clean energy revolution
Since beginning in 2007, South Coast Solar (SCS) has rapidly grown to be one of the largest solar energy design-build contractors in the southwest. It assists businesses, schools, governments and multifamily housing meet sustainability goals and lower operating costs using solar energy systems that generate electricity via photovoltaics (PV). After outgrowing its original location in New Orleans, the company moved to its present headquarters in Metairie, La. It’s completed nearly 1,000 residential, commercial and governmental installations in Louisiana alone, but also has performed more work out of state than any of its local competitors.
“We have three key areas of focus: department of defense, municipal bid work and metal buildings with metal roofs,” says Jerry Hymel, vice president of commercial projects at South Coast Solar. “Metal roofs combined with our experienced installation crews allow SCS to deliver a low-cost solution to our customers with a good return on investment (ROI). We have seasoned veteran installation crews that are accustomed to traveling to job sites such as Africa, Haiti and throughout the United States. We provide full design, build and financing solutions for our customers. Turnkey solutions for customers is a key ingredient to our success.”
South Coast Solar has played a leading role in the industry from day one. The owners helped draft the original rules for the solar tax credits and they continue to play a major role with the Louisiana legislature as well as the Public Service Commission, which regulates the utilities.
Metal and SCS
Metal roofs comprise 80 percent of South Coast Solar’s commercial and government work. Since its very beginning, SCS has seen increasing solar integration onto metal roofs, and Scott Oman, SCS’s COO/CTO, claims that metal is the best type of roof material to attach photovoltaic systems to. “The [Colorado Springs, Colo.-based] S-5! clamp that attaches the PV railing to the roof is really innovative,” he says. “This innovative solution helps to drive down the cost of material, labor and overall installation. Metal roofs provide the perfect platform for an aggressive ROI and a low-cost install.”
Hymel believes metal roofs make a good PV host because they tend to be low-pitch, accessible and have a lower profile. “Metal roofs allow for very easy installation of the PV attachments: the clamps, rail and panels,” he says. “From a safety standpoint, it’s much more manageable than installing on very tall buildings or steeply pitched asphalt shingled roofs.” South Coast Solar uses a term called “grid parity” to explain when the cost of solar is equal or better than the cost of buying electricity from a utility. Hymel has learned that this grid parity’s tipping point is helped not only by metal building’s increased speed of installation, but also by the experience SCS has built up with metal buildings.
South Coast Solar’s high standards have helped it attain its reputation for successful installations, and it continually pursues new training and certification opportunities for its workforce to maintain its competitive industry position status.
Employing both North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners and UL-certified installation technicians, SCS personnel has the training and experience necessary to deliver projects with the highest levels of workmanship and job performance. All employees are trained and certified above industry standards. The company’s mission is to provide the best equipment installed by highly trained and experienced installers.
For successful and long-lasting installations, SCS works very closely with manufacturers and even develops its own best practices. “We participate in the project on the front end with different trades and design groups to make sure our systems are in compliance with all the other building technologies and sciences involved,” Oman says. “We use the recommended torque settings on hardware, which is very important in maintaining your metal roofing warranties.”
Photovoltaic systems must be grounded and bonded electrically. This procedure is typically done with copper conductors, and often bare copper. But when zinc and copper are put together, the zinc corrodes and that can damage a metal roof. For a successful, galvanic corrosion-free PV installation, “We use tin-coated copper on all metal roofing and people aren’t always aware of that,” Oman says. “We are always pushing to incorporate innovative technology into our company’s mix.”
South Coast Solar has further solidified its market position by earning a great reputation for quality work from other contractors. “At the end of the day, your work defines you as a company. If you do great work, it will drive your business,” Oman says.
Year Founded: 2007
Location: Metairie, La.
Geographic Areas of Service: Louisiana and neighboring states
Services Offered: Solar energy design-build contracting
Number of Employees: approximately 30 employees
Solar Units Installed:
2013: 236 solar units
2012: 189 solar units
2011: 162 solar units
2010: 130 solar units
2014 Revenue Projection: Approximately $9.5 million
2013 Total Revenue: Approximately $7.8 million
2012 Total Revenue: Approximately $6.9 million
Robert L. Suggs, CEO and Managing Partner
C. Tucker Crawford, Co-Founder and Director
Scott Oman, COO/CTO
Jerry Hymel, Vice President of Commercial Projects Metal and SCS