Video: The Origin story told by Founder & CEO, Alex Blackmer
In 2008, just over 1GW of solar electricity capacity was online in the United States and Alex Blackmer, current CEO and Founder of Solaris Energy was working on financing and developing, not solar, but converting used vegetable oil into biodiesel fuels for schools in Costa Rica. That same year, Blackmer would bring together the project’s learnings and his unique construction past to play a pivotal role in increasing that gigawatt, creating the beginning of Solaris Energy, a values-based, long-standing developer and financier in the US distributed solar and storage space.
Long before Solaris was a twinkle in his eye, Blackmer had his first parlay into the energy field. “In 1976 I was finishing up a high school construction class when my uncle offered me a job to help build his passive solar, energy-efficient home,” Blackmer reminisced.
This skill set eventually took Blackmer to the sunny Colorado hills where he built an early career designing and building off-grid solar homes, a concept unheard of to many at the
time. Each residence was built with the environment in mind and adorned a unique garnish on the roof – a Ponderosa Pine sprig symbolizing good luck for the family it housed. The desire for a better world for people and the environment would become a common theme throughout Blackmer’s work.
On a hiatus from construction, Blackmer, his wife, and two daughters headed to Costa Rica. Even in another country, Blackmer couldn’t seem to step too far away from innovation for energy eco-solutions and passion to help his community. He formed The Atmosphere Conservancy to, finance and develop a biodiesel manufacturing plant using grants and donations, for a local school to fuel their school buses. The 2008 project would turn out to be the first project of Solaris Energy’s US non-profit arm, and one of a long string of endeavors leading to the present day.
“I saw the positive impact this biodiesel generator had for the school and community, and I wanted to make a similar impact when I came back to the States. I wanted to do more to help those who needed it, not just build more off-grid homes for the rural wealthy,” noted Blackmer.
The non-profit started off using the financial approach taken with the Costa Rica generator initiative to help other US non-profits go solar, matching up well with Blackmer’s skills and core values. A year later, in 2009, this mission led to the very modest installation of a 10kW project for a low-income housing community. From then on, the organization found itself providing much-needed solar services to help schools, homeless shelters, churches, and other mission-driven organizations reduce their carbon footprint and save money on operational expenses.
As the industry grew and tens of kWs became hundreds and even thousands, Blackmer foresaw creative ways to utilize new US federal policy to extend solar to all types of non-residential customers through 3rd party financing and tax equity.
In 2010 Solaris Energy formed its for-profit arm to implement this expanded vision but made sure to stay aligned with Blackmer’s values. Today the company is a certified B Corp, 1% for the Planet member, and Public Benefit Corporation, ensuring its social and environmental roots continue to be instilled in its culture, partnerships, and daily work.
These past fifteen years Solaris Energy has played an integral part in the solar industry’s major movement from just 1GW capacity to 155 GW capacity. With the help of great partners, Solaris has now completed over 120 project sites for a variety of customers, ranging from that initial 10kW project up to nearly 5MW.
Blackmer finishes the story, “I’m proud of the fifteen years of experience we have in the ups and downs of solar. It has taught our team how to successfully surf the wave of those early wild west days to the current industry boom, all with a focus on helping our clients find a cleaner, greener, and cheaper energy.”
Follow Solaris Energy’s full story and 15 year celebration at https://www.linkedin.com/company/build-solaris-energy/