AtisSun has found a strong niche for solar in rural Maryland.
The company announced this week that it helped a family with more than 100 acres, a 5,000-square-foot home, swimming pool and tennis courts on a working farm outside of Baltimore offset 100 percent of its electricity use with a 51-kilowatt solar installation.
“In terms of residential solar, that’s monstrous,” said AtisSun founder Matt Bartlett.
But that’s exactly the kind of solar installation for exactly the type of client that Bartlett’s company has been focusing on for the last several years.
“We initially started out doing solar hot water heaters and smaller residential systems,” Bartlett said. “But I really gravitated to these larger systems. They’re basically classified as agricultural systems.”
He said he can identify with his clients, who see solar more as a long-term investment and look at it from the perspective of growing wealth rather than saving money, which is how most homeowners look at solar.
“These types of larger systems will offer a stable, reliable 20 percent return,” Bartlett said. “Where else can you put that kind of cash that will offer that kind of return on investment?”
The issue for most people is that once the money is invested in solar, it’s not liquid. It will pay out well, but there’s no easy way to access the cash investment.
The complex mathematics and making the numbers work to the property-owner’s advantage with tax credits, tax write-offs and return on investment is something Bartlett said he enjoys helping his clients do.
“Like a lot of the farms around here, this one has been in our client’s family for generations,” Bartlett said. “And for his children who will inherit the farm, he knows they won’t have an electric bill. It’s very reassuring to provide that kind of security.”
Most of AtisSun’s clients who install larger agricultural systems are looking at solar arrays as an investment and as security against rising energy costs.
An investment like that isn’t something most owners decide to make at the snap of a finger. They take their time, evaluate the numbers and mull it over.
The most recent client initially contacted AtisSun two years ago. It was a big commitment and he was interested, but couldn’t bring himself to do it right then. The good news was that solar panel prices dropped by the time he decided to install solar, which means the client will get an even better return on investment, Bartlett said.
Most of AtisSun’s clients take their time, he said. There’s no rush. AtisSun is able to wait and work with clients over a period of years.
“For us, it’s all about relationships,” Bartlett said. “There’s always competition. But at the end of the day, people would rather work with a company they know has been around and is going to be around for a long time.”