Would you like lower electric bills? How about credits from your utility? Does caring for the planet appeal to you?
Brandon Fuller wants to talk with you.
Fuller is operations manager for Sunlight Solar, a new local company helping Central Virginians go solar at home.
Every Sunlight Solar customer receives a customized, no-cost, zero-risk property analysis to assess the potential benefits of solar. Financing options include zero down and zero out-of-pocket, and the company offers a generous warranty and tax incentive information.
“We make going solar easy,” Fuller said. “We’ll handle all the permitting. You just sign and save.”
While Fuller and owner Dominick Barlow just opened Sunlight Solar off Route 288 at Chester Road, they are local to Chesterfield County. The lifelong friends met at Matoaca Elementary and were always interested in owning a business. Initially, they went into home building separately – Fuller as a custom builder, Barlow as a hardscapes designer specializing in decks, pools, fencing and home additions. While working in these fields, Fuller and Barlow helped another friend explore solar as a means to grow his business, and based on their research decided to launch Sunlight Solar together.
Eric Kothe is an enthusiastic customer. Sunlight Solar equipped Kothe’s 4,000-square-foot home in Mechanicsville with solar in December, and the results were immediate. “We haven’t seen a bill since we put in the system,” he said. “We’re burning 75 kilowatts [of solar power] a day.” He uses an app to track performance.
For Kothe, a business owner, husband and father of two, the decision to go solar fit his energy-conscious, self-sufficient mindset – he drives a hybrid vehicle and installed a generator to protect his family from outages. “I’ve always been conscientious about energy,” he said. “You realize the world’s evolving, and how do you sustain a lifestyle and be mindful of the planet, and of costs?” Solar was the answer for Kothe.
His wooded 13-acre spread includes a tree-free area for his house and pool with unobstructed southern exposure. Purchasing the solar system in late 2019 netted Kothe a 30% federal tax credit, which he plans to apply to his home-improvement loan, as well as relief from monthly electric bills that ranged from $200 to $400 per month.
He pointed out that electricity costs will keep increasing, and climate trends indicate a continuing rise in temperatures. “The tax credit really makes the system seem like a no-brainer,” Kothe said. “It’s worth every penny – and it just makes the house all that much more valuable.”
Sunlight Solar installs systems in existing homes like Kothe’s, and partners with a custom builder based in Virginia Beach to install solar into new construction. The company can install solar panels on light commercial buildings such as warehouses and stores, as well as mount panels on rooftops or on the ground, depending on the needs of the site.
Working with its partner builder, Sunlight Solar installs systems across the state, but with a focus on Hampton Roads and the Peninsula, the Greater Richmond area, and Central Virginia.
Sunlight Solar also is working to obtain its own Class A contractor’s license, which would allow it to develop its own crews in addition to working with install partners. The ability to broker deals with other install crews allows Sunlight Solar to bring the best prices to its customers.
Prices vary depending on the type of system, but with tax credits and energy savings, customers can expect to see savings immediately. “If you can afford your electric bill, you can afford solar,” Kothe said.
Fuller said a common misconception is that solar installation takes a long time. While getting permits and approvals may take a while, the actual installation is usually completed quickly, in as little as a day and a half.
“For the customer, it’s simple,” Fuller said. “There’s a proposal to sign, and then the homeowner is done.”
In addition to helping customers give back to the Earth, Sunlight Solar is committed to giving back to the community. Each year, Fuller shaves his head as part of a campaign to benefit St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a nonprofit focusing on a cure for childhood cancer. Donations raise awareness and support research into new treatments, Fuller said.
Fuller and Barlow also intend to see Sunlight Solar certified as a B Corporation. “B Corps" are a new kind of business balancing purpose and profit, according to the website bcorporation.net, produced by the nonprofit B Lab, a global organization with offices in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. They are “a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good" that considers the impact of their decisions on workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment, according to the site.
Fuller and Barlow want to be part of the growing B Corp movement. “We feel that businesses have to take a long, hard look at the impact they have on the community,” Fuller said. “We have a responsibility to do that. We want our business to be a pillar of the community, to help uplift it.”