Partner Q&A with Thomas J Guzek, Managing Partner, SolarPark Energy and NYSEIA Board Member
Our partners are the heart of our business and work hard to grow and promote the solar industry each and every day. In this first installment of our new monthly feature profiling partners, SolarPark Energy’s Thomas J Guzek discusses recent changes to the New York solar market – and why the changes could expand the community #solar market in the state.
1) How long has SolarPark Energy been in the solar industry?
SolarPark Energy was started in 2015 as a result of major changes to the New York Public Service Laws, which created Community Distributed Generation or CDG. This major change in policy created the ability to provide solar energy, delivered through the existing utility network, to thousands of homes and businesses from a centralized solar generation facility. This was a huge opportunity to bring a new energy platform to the market. Being a native of western New York, I was anxious to bring this exciting opportunity to my old hometown.
2) How do you think New York is doing in facilitating the development of solar in the state?
After years of misguided policy issues and regulatory missteps, I think that the State of New York is finally in a position to see CDG expand. While there are still substantial issues that must be addressed to offer consumers and businesses a simple, seamless method to procure CDG energy, at least we are seeing projects being constructed and subscribed. With the adoption of new laws requiring 6 GW of renewable energy by 2040, of which solar is a major part, we need to resolve a number of issues that prevent widespread adoption of CDG. Major items like consolidated billing, consumer understanding of the VDER values they are receiving and modifications to state property tax laws are necessary to increase development of CDG and significantly increase the number of consumers who will actively participate as subscribers.
3) Why do you think it’s important to be involved with NYSEIA and other New York organizations?
As a member of the Board of Directors of NYSEIA, I believe that it is necessary for all companies involved in the solar energy industry in New York to participate as a single voice to our governor, legislature and regulatory bodies about the issues that need to be addressed for the good of the industry and to allow New York state to meet its ambitious renewable energy targets. NYSEIA is highly regarded as the group that has a great understanding of the market and how to improve policy and process. Personally, I believe that NYSEIA has greatly enabled the changes that we are seeing over the past few years that have resulted in enormous growth in the market.
4) How did you get involved with Standard Solar?
I was introduced to Standard Solar by Daryl Pilon, Standard’s Director of Business Development and their greatest supporter. We met at a New York Public Service Commission meeting. Since that meeting, I have had the opportunity to visit their headquarters and meet many of the Standard Solar team members. I was extremely impressed with the great cooperative spirit of the organization and their incredible response to getting things done. We are involved with Standard Solar as a development partner in a number of projects throughout all of western, central and upstate New York. Standard Solar is our primary IPP customer, and we plan on doing significantly more projects for them as the market continues to grow.
5) What has your experience been like working with them?
Like no other. It is a true pleasure to work with Standard Solar on a project. We get outstanding cooperation from all of their departments and can get access to anyone we need to keep a project moving. There is a true sense or family at Standard Solar, from Scott Wiater, president & CEO, all the way through to every level of the organization. That is unique and special. If you can find a company like that, you definitely want to do work with them. In my experience in the solar industry, I know of no organization that is as well run strategically or operationally. They are head of the class.
6) What does someone who wants to develop solar project in New York need to know?
If you are just coming into New York State, there is a lot of competition. You need to have a strong local presence to gain the trust of the local town boards and planning boards. New Yorkers, especially upstate New Yorkers, like to deal with local people. If you want to be successful in developing in New York State, you need to be on the ground and spending lots of time introducing yourself to residents of the towns that you want to do projects in and get them comfortable with what you are proposing. Otherwise, you will meet with a lot of resistance. Having a strong local presence, along with a tie to a solid, well financed organization like Standard allows our organization to gain the respect we need to gain approvals on development projects. It is a great working relationship.