A Place in the Sun for Solar Energy Industry


Brightergy sees continued market growth and demand for solar energy. Jeff Risley explains.

Bright Days Ahead for Solar Energy

The solar energy industry has experienced steady growth in recent years, despite its share of cloudy days over the past decade. Brightergy’s Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Risley sees opportune changes in prospects for the industry’s domestic growth.

Brightergy, a Kansas City-based renewable energy company that employs 54 people in Missouri, sells solar-energy products and provides services for commercial clients and tax-exempt organizations in the Massachusetts and Missouri market.

Risley says, “What we’re seeing in solar is a convergence of three things helping grow the market and thus create jobs: Federal and state policies that incentivize solar investment, greater awareness among consumers and businesses about the benefits of solar energy and the rapid decline in solar-component prices.”

Jobs created in the burgeoning solar energy industry, and in the regional economy, span sales, marketing, finance, solar design, client service, operations and technicians. Brightergy has created a variety of these job types over the past three years, all based in Missouri and not likely to be sent off shore in pursuit of cheaper labor.

“Solar is a high-touch business. We work directly with clients, in their businesses, on their roofs and with local jurisdictions and utilities,” Risley says. “That requires local knowledge. These are high-paying jobs, too. Even our solar technicians need unique training. We’re proud of the special skill-set our people have.”


Solar Energy Offers Powerful Benefits

Past area solar installation projects include solar panel installation for the Parkway School District in St. Louis, a 648 Suntech Solar photo voltaic module installation at John Knox Village in Lee’s Summit and 216 panels and two systems installed for JE Dunn Construction in Kansas City that will offset 50 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually.

Brightergy anticipates a steady increase in demand in Missouri from commercial and tax-exempt clients. “We’ve installed over 500 projects in the region,” Risley says. “Businesses see how favorable the economics are now. They can lower their operating costs and control what has been an uncontrollable expense – electricity.”

 The numbers and subsequent benefits add up quickly when calculated over time. Energy savings for a typical 25-kilowatt (kW) system is approximately $160,000 over 25 years while the payback is 2-3 years.

Brightergy offers financing options to ease the cash outlay for the major overhaul of a client’s energy system. “Tax-exempt entities can lease a system from us with no up-front expense,” Risley says. A school or church or city can start saving money immediately and fix their cost of electricity for the next 20 years.”

The company installed a 50-kW system at Gary Crossley Ford in Liberty in late 2012. The system will produce approximately 64,000-kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity each year. “The average American home uses between 10,500 and 11,500 kWh of electricity a year,” Risley says. “So Gary Crossley Ford’s system will generate enough electricity to power almost six homes each year. The environmental benefit of the solar production is the reduction of 1,361 tons of CO2 emissions over the next 25 years.”

Opposition and competition to Solar Energy

Despite the cost savings, prospects for job growth and environmental upside of solar energy products, not everyone in the public, business sector and media, for that matter, is convinced of the benefits. News coverage and subsequent politicization cast a harsh light during the last presidential election cycle on defunct solar company Solyndra, which received…

Read the rest of the interview with Brightergy’s chief marketing officer Jeff Risley in the digital edition of KC Business.