Wendi Zubillaga is the chief sales officer at PetersenDean, a commercial and residential roofing contractor and solar company headquartered in Freemont, Calif., with 20 offices in five states: Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada and Texas.
When the new housing market declined a few years ago, the company embraced solar, and it’s paid off. Zubillaga projects PetersenDean will do $250 million in business in 2015 — and approximately $40 million of that total will come from solar sales. She shared the lessons learned by PetersenDean as the company entered the solar market and offered tips on how to contractors could implement the technology in a presentation titled “Winning With Solar.”
“Solar has become a huge part of our business plan now,” she said. “We had to get started because our customers were asking for it.”
The demand for solar might not be overwhelming in all parts of the country now, but Zubillaga believes it will be there eventually. “Solar is coming,” she said. “It is happening, and not just for the green people living in areas like Berkeley, California. It’s going to hit all of our areas across the United States.”
If those in the roofing industry are not there to meet the demand for solar, someone else will, and those unfamiliar with roof systems installers will wreak havoc.
“Solar is a roofing product,” she said. “Roofing contractors need to learn to install it.”
The first step for roofers looking to enter the solar market is to educate themselves, noted Zubillaga. “One piece of advice I’d give to roofers before selling and installing solar is to learn all about it — no ifs, ands or buts,” she said. “You have to partner with a good, solid manufacturer.”
The other key ingredient is hard work. “There is a lot of front-end work that goes along with it,” she said. “There’s engineering, there’s electrical, there’s permitting, there’s dealing with utility companies.”
Zubillaga noted that all of the company’s employees are cross-trained. “It’s very important to us that all of our roofers are also solar installers,” she said.
PetersenDean has plans in place to expand its footprint in both the residential retrofit solar market and the new construction market. “About one out of five solar calls we convert into a new roof,” she said.
Tax credits make the sale easier, and local utility rebates — where they are available — help even more. “Where there is more money available, solar is a lot more successful,” she said. “But we have been successful in both Northern and Southern California, where the rebates are gone, and we’re selling more solar than ever.”
Legislation requiring net zero homes in the future could be the tipping point. “With net zero, solar is going to have to be on those roofs,” she said.
“Winning With Solar” was presented as a live webinar. To view the archived version on demand, just click here.