Same Sun of Vermont provides full-service installations using high quality, American-assembled modules. Its Vermont-based workforce is growing, but the company faces the challenge of hiring qualified employees while remaining competitive as prices fall. A new sister company focused on Operations & Maintenance will be another opportunity for growth.
Same Sun serves both residential and commercial customers in Vermont and occasionally the broader Northeast region. It is an owner-operated solar shop focused on providing excellent customer service. The components they install undergo an extensive internal vetting process to ensure the use of quality modules from American manufacturers. They pride themselves on the ability to say “yes” to a wide variety of projects, with anything from adding three modules to a customer’s existing solar array, to installing a 600-kW ground mount.
Same Sun’s employees are located in the Rutland, Vermont office, though the installation crews work on PV sites across Vermont. The composition of Same Sun’s workforce includes installers, crew leads to manage the installers, a project manager, a sales team, an office manager, a permitting and finance specialist, and the Vice President overseeing technical operations. Same Sun employs three full-time installation crews consisting of about four installers per crew. All the installation work is done by the full-time, permanent installers, except for large commercial projects that require a subcontract with a master electrician.
Employees are hired from in-state, as Same Sun has not had success hiring from outside of Vermont, says Khanti Munro, Vice President of Same Sun. Like many other companies, Same Sun has found it challenging to hire qualified applicants, particularly for installation positions. The skills they seek in qualified candidates include “relevant trade-related experience, good references, reliability, and a good attitude.” Same Sun suspects this difficulty is due to the geographical constraints of conducting business in a small town, rather than any regulatory or policy constraints. In fact, the company notes that the lack of required licenses to perform PV work is helpful for the hiring market in Vermont.
One of the biggest challenges Same Sun faces is the changing regulatory landscape. “It is a full-time job trying to stay on top of what the latest regulations are, as solar policies and regulations are constantly changing in Vermont,” Khanti says. Additionally, the continually decreasing price of solar installations presents a challenge, especially because they source their modules from American manufacturers. This is a “catch-22 in which our mission is to accomplish the bottoming out of prices for the end-user, while also staying profitable as a boutique solar shop focusing on American-made quality products,” Khanti adds.
Another challenge is communication with potential customers, given the many different PV products available from dozens of solar companies. Khanti notes that there is a lot of misinformation about solar systems in general, specifically system design and cost. Customers will often approach Same Sun with implausible projects and they will have to turn them away.
As Same Sun continues to obtain contracts for a greater number of larger scale projects, the company will need to accommodate these projects by hiring more installation workers and project managers, Khanti adds. Additionally, Same Sun has started an operations and maintenance sister company called Solar PROformance Services. Though this company is just getting started, it will likely grow and seek to hire workers to perform a variety of tasks including project management, office management, sales, and general O&M crew work.