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United States: Small Business Q&A: Georgia Solar Power Company

Published at: Feb 27, 2012
source: NortheastCobbPatch
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East Cobb's Georgia Solar Power Company is one of the leading solar integrators in the country.

Patch arrived at Georgia Solar Power Company's office near the 120 Loop and found workers installing a grid-tie solar system on the roof.

Company owner Ben Browning told Patch, "This system will generate almost enough power for the building. We'll run a little surplus except in summer."

The 4.9kW (kilowatt hours) system is designed to generate 575kW per month. According to Browning, electric usage in the office last summer was between 800kW to 900kW per month.

Browning said the system cost is between $19,000 and $25,000.  

Excess electricity will be sold to Cobb EMC.

Federal law requires electric service providers, such as Cobb EMC, to compensate their residential and commercial customers for surplus power the customers add into their systems, Browning said.

Browning is a board member of the Georgia chapter of Solar Energy Industries Association. The group is advocating adoption of GA S.B. 401. The legislation, co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, is attempting to broaden the types of customer generators, the financing of generators, and eliminates peak capacity stipulations on generators, and makes the rate paid by electric service providers commercially reasonable. 

The technology commonly used today has been around since the '70's, like the grid on his office roof, Browning said.

Browning employs one full-time and four part-time employees. He manages the business and performs on-sight project management, which requires him to carry solar photovoltaic panels and tighten bolts.

Q. What's the best thing about your job?
A. I'm my own boss. But, it is hard when things aren't going the way you want them to. Sometimes you have to dig deep to motivate yourself.

Q. What is the best thing about East Cobb?
A. The office is close to home.

Q. Why did you choose to open your business in East Cobb?
A. It's a laid back environment. The traffic is easy to move trailers and trucks in.

It's easy to have the space and security that is needed.

Q. Why did you pick this kind of business?
A. In 1995, when I was in high school in Texas, I worked manual labor installing solar panels. I wanted to pick it back up.

It's a growing industry. The country is creating new products that use electricity faster than adding to electricity sources.

Q. What are some of the services you offer that people don't know about?
A. The services we offer range from à la Carte to full turnkey projects.

We design systems, sell equipment, provide consulting, conduct third party inspections and servicing.

Or, we can work a project from contract until it's done.

Q. How long have you been in business?
A. This office opened in 2007.

Q. How did your business get started?
A. I wanted to get into the solar power industry. I come from an information technology background. So, I registered a strong name and invested in a small website.

I researched what words people type in when searching for solar energy sites and picked the most used words for a company name.

Our website keeps us extremely busy. We use the website and word-of-mouth to market our business. 

Most of the work we're doing is for commercial projects and most is out-of-state.

The economy has hurt the residential market. People are holding onto their money.

The commercial market has very good incentives; there are grants and depreciation programs. 

Q. Do you have advice for anyone who'd like to start a small business in this area?
A. The biggest lesson that I've learned is that you have to be set, financially, to go 12 to 24 months without taking a salary.

Whatever money you make should be reinvested in the business.

Georgia Solar Power Company
56 Hamby Road 
678-659-9291

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