Planet Solar Design & Installation
- Written by: Tom Faunce
- Produced by: Joe Atwood
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Since 2008, Planet Solar Design & Installation has become one of the most influential and respected solar installation companies in the industry. Specializing in solar panel design and installation, Planet Solar completes work for residential, commercial and government markets. With four locations in its home state of California, Planet Solar also manages locations in Miami and Puerto Rico.
Ben Siebert, founder and CEO of Planet Solar, started his first energy conservation company in 1983 and installed his first solar system that year. In 1996, Siebert developed and patented a line of low-energy lighting products, which are still sold around the world. In 2006, he was approached by a friend with the offer of becoming a full partner in a solar company that was looking to expand. “I got into the business in 2007 and after a year, we realized we didn’t quite agree on the philosophies of the company,” recounts Siebert. “We amicably separated and I founded Planet Solar in 2008 have been doing it ever since. I’ve had a lot of help from my chief operating officer, Carol Huerta. She has basically been running the California operation since I moved to Puerto Rico.”
A niche market
Although the company was started in the thick of the recession, Siebert has found success during tough economic times. “Throughout my entire career, everything I’ve done has generally been about saving people money,” he says. “There was a recession in the country when I sold my first solar panel back in 1983. At that time there was a 55 percent tax credit for using solar power.”
In addition to the financial incentive that solar power creates for home and building owners, Planet Solar presents a dedication to providing every customer with a unique, positive experience from start to finish of the purchase and installation process. With a one-stop shop business model, Planet Solar streamlines the installation process by using its own installation crews and monitors. “That is becoming less prevalent throughout the industry,” says Siebert. “We care too much about the quality and customer service to sub out the installation process.”
Planet Solar also provides fee installation by using a similar business model to the cellular phone industry. Just like the phone companies, Planet Solar has its customers sign a contract to buy its service (solar electricity) for a certain length of time, and in turn the customer receives the equipment (solar panels) for free.
As a company that has mastered the skill of solar installation, the toughest challenge that Planet Solar faces is not competition within the industry but rather complacency in the market. “Most people have gotten their power from the same source for years,” says Siebert. “It’s there, it’s not super expensive and it’s what they’re used to. The story still remains consistent though and that is solar energy saves you money because it creates a return on investment from day one.”
Through detailed proposals created on design software, Planet Solar is able to provide potential customers with financial information and planning information that express the benefits and savings of switching to solar power. “The proposal takes all factors into account,” says Siebert. “Through all of the calculations we are able to guarantee a 15 percent return on investment.”
Siebert says that one of the very first installations that Planet Solar performed still remains one of his personal favorites. The project was for a home in Santa Barbara, California, that was on the cover of Architectural Digest. The client generated repeat business for Planet Solar due to satisfaction with the company’s work. “The client bought the house and before they even moved in, we installed the system,” says Siebert. “Then they bought a couple of Teslas and they had us install the solar panels for them to charge.”
A positive outlook
While the success of a business is based on the bottom line and continued growth of revenue, Planet Solar views that growth as a measurement of customer satisfaction. As a company that does little to no marketing, Planet Solar has relied on word-of-mouth and customer referrals to drive the business forward, all the while working toward a more sustainable future for the world. “I love this industry because it’s a win-win situation for everybody involved,” Siebert explains. “I love meeting all the different people and educating them on how we can save them money all while doing something positive for the environment.”
Siebert credits the success of his company to the employees of Planet Solar. “On a daily basis, I am humbled and honored to work with the team that I have assembled,” he says. “We have a very high retention rate of people that I am very happy have chosen to work with me.”
With the future of the solar industry looking strong, Siebert is looking forward to Planet Solar continuing as a leader in the market. With its expertise and proven track record of satisfied clientele, the potential exists for the company to seek a regional player in the industry to possibly merge with in the near future. “It would beneficial for both parties if we were to partner with a company that already has a presence in some of the markets we don’t serve, such as the Northeast,” says Siebert.
While Planet Solar Design & Installation paves its way through the industry, the company will remain customer-satisfaction oriented as it educates and serves the public on energy-efficient solar power systems.
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