Paradise in Lancaster County: Spreading Solar Across Farmlands
Funding programs available to Pennsylvania farmers have dwindled, and the small amount of grant money made available by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for solar installations is particularly competitive. A recent USDA funding announcement noted only five PA farmers received solar grants through the Rural Energy for America
Three of those successful applicants are customers of Paradise Energy Solutions
(PES), the Lancaster County-based installer of solar PhotoVoltaic (PV) systems that earned a total of 14 USDA grants in 2011, including nine for PA farmers.
"One reason for our strength in this area is that many of our staff members come from farming backgrounds. We know that farmers would rather be working in their fields than filling out forms, and we know how to help our customers get the most points for their projects,” says PES CEO Tim Beiler.
Since opening for business on Jan. 1, 2009, PES, headquartered in Gap and operated by four entrepreneurial brothers, is growing rapidly by providing its customers with a combination of modern technology and old-fashioned customer service. The company has already completed more than 110 installations, and many more projects are under development. PES has also expanded to five other states, and many of those installations have taken place in them.
Marcus Beiler, who now works in business development and HR, first saw the possibility of a solar installation business, and he shared his vision with brothers Matt, Tim, and Jason. “Marcus had the original idea,” says Tim. “In 2008, he saw a developing industry. At the time, we all had other jobs. Marcus, Jason, and I had a business where we did natural stonework, and Matt was running the family farm.”
Matt is now the CFO, and Jason has moved to Salisbury, Md., where he manages the company’s Maryland office. PES has also opened branches in New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Illinois, and the company also serves customers in New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut.
“Business is good,” Tim Beiler says. “It’s been a lot of work this year, starting the new branches and hiring employees. The first quarter took a lot of investment in time and energy.”
The PV systems that PES installs come in all sizes. In India, the Gujarat solar facility that will eventually be the world’s largest is partially finished and already supplying plenty of electricity. The system will cover about 3,000 acres (just about the size of Lebanon, PA), and when it’s complete, it will provide 500 Megawatts of power. That would be enough to power 500,000 American homes, and probably many more Indian homes. Meanwhile, solar thermal units, which may place only 2 or 3 panels on a roof, can meet all of a home’s hot water needs.
Paradise Energy Solutions hasn’t yet landed a contract for any job as large as that one in India, but the company has begun work on a big system for Martin Limestone
at its New Holland Concrete plant. That system will cover five acres with 4,480 solar panels, and it will supply 1.12 megawatts of electricity, about half of the plant’s requirements.
Paul Stoltzfus, Manager of Environmental and Special Services at Martin, said, “Paradise was able to make it work. We had previously talked with an out-of-state firm, but they couldn’t pull together the financing. The people at Paradise understand grants and tax credits. We’re very pleased with the way they’ve nurtured our relationship. They really showed they know the technical side of it. Our companies think the same in the way we treat people, and they’ve been a real pleasure to work with.”
Sometimes, New Holland Concrete’s system, or any PV system, will actually produce more power than the user needs. When that happens, the excess goes back into the electric grid. The electric meter actually spins backwards, and New Holland Concrete, or any other PV owner, will receive credit for the excess power.
In New Holland, PES installed a system of 500 rooftop panels for Country Lane Gazebos
, and after more than a year, owner Sam Stoltzfus is thoroughly pleased with all aspects of the project.
“They definitely did a very good job," he says. "We investigated 2 other companies, but Paradise is the only one we considered working with. They have the turnkey operation. They had the paperwork all filled out. They explained it all and got all the permits. The system is wonderful. It supplies just about all of the power for the building it’s on. I highly recommend this.”
Early in the life of their business, the Beiler brothers made crucial business decision when they chose to hire a business coach. Tim Rooney, founder and owner of PeopleMation
, a Lancaster business dedicated to releasing human potential, has been their mentor “Since the days the business was run from the kitchen table on the dairy farm,” Rooney says.
“What sets the Beiler brothers apart from other entrepreneurs is their integrity and clarity. That’s integrity and clarity of purpose, values, and commitment to grow first as individuals and then as a team, and therefore to enable the business to grow with a strong and sustainable foundation.
“It is a great privilege to be a part of this principled business and the good we do for our customers, our employees, and our community.”
BILL SIMPSON writes about business in Lancaster. Send feedback here.