By Sarah Kuper
Brought together by business and then brought closer by friendship, Sam Yates and Rob Ozols have formed a company that may help change the way Alabamians power their lives.
With backgrounds in engineering and law, Yates and Ozols are using skills from previous careers to pursue a passion for user-friendly energy sources.
Yates and Ozols founded Vulcan Solar Power in 2015 after seeing a need in the greater Birmingham area for easy-to-use residential and commercial solar power systems. The company has obtained all its required licenses, and Yates and Ozols said they are excited to start working with a long list of homeowners and businesses interested in solar power.
“It isn’t just for ‘greenies,’ there is commercially good payback on a system,” said Ozols, the company’s chief executive officer.
While the cost for a home system is between $15,000 and $30,000, once the panels are installed, Yates and Ozols said it is as though the property owner has budgeted utilities for the next 25 years.
“The technology is always improving and the cost is going down while the price of utilities will only continue to go up,” Ozols said.
There are several different system options. They range from using part solar and part local electricity, to totally disconnecting from the “grid.”
Ozols said the solar equipment requires almost no maintenance. “Panels don’t get blown or ripped off, they are hail resistant and easy to replace if something does happen,” he said.
Yates said there are web and mobile interfaces that keep property owners aware of their energy usage and how the solar panels are functioning in real time.
Ozols and Yates acknowledge that there is often a stigma surrounding solar-powered homes, but they said solar power isn’t just for new-age homes anymore.
“We can work with almost every type of roof and we will tell you if it doesn’t make sense. We can work with aesthetics too – tucking panels in landscaping or using a not-as-obvious side of the roof,” Yates said.
Vulcan Solar Power specializes in “turnkey” installations and service. That means the company will handle all the required licensing, installation, analysis and maintenance.
It offers free consultations, site surveys, quotes and designs.
“We can work within a budget. We can come back with all sorts of options – big and small,” Yates said.
Installers are certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, the highest expert certification for solar power systems.
Ozols and Yates said they believe solar power is the way of the future – not just in terms of the planet, but with respect to the local and national economy.
“Solar jobs are growing nine times faster than the overall economy,” Ozol said.
Yates and Ozols want to help educate college students and professionals about the opportunities in solar power.
“Solar technology is creating good-paying jobs. There are federal programs that help train energy workers in solar power – right now those opportunities are not being taken advantage of,” Ozols said.
Yates said students who want to pursue careers in solar will likely take their skills to other states where solar is more accessible.
According to an Arizona State University 2012 study, Alabama has the eighth-highest solar power potential in the nation based on its climate and geographic location. But as of 2014, Alabama ranked 49th among states with installed solar capacity, according to the Solar Energies Industry Association state fact sheet.
Neighboring state Georgia ranks 16th on that list.