Freedom Forever doubled its revenues in 2018, breaching the $100 million mark for the first time in the company’s seven-year history. Revenues have soared 3,000 percent in the past three years.
The Temecula, California-based residential solar finance and installation company has installed 26MW of emissions-free power generation capacity on more than 10,000 homes in California, Arizona and Nevada in 2018 to date, riding the wave of homeowner demand more ambitious state renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets by expanding into Colorado in November, as well.
“At the core of Freedom Forever’s business model is the fundamental belief that our customers come first. Our ongoing success is a direct result of the consumer-driven, service-oriented approach we follow, which is designed to make renewable energy an attractive proposition for homeowners by maximizing their return on investment,” CEO Brett Bouchy said. “As we look forward to 2019, we see continued room to grow as we bring our services to a broader market in more states, and as more homeowners become aware of both the cost-savings possible with solar energy and the role that renewables have in ultimately countering climate change.”
Solar Magazine spoke with Bouchy to find out more about the company’s success, how the company has managed to grow at such an extraordinary rate, and if management sees that as sustainable.
Distinguishing itself from the competition
Expanding Freedom Forever’s local dealer network and enabling them to offer flexible residential solar photovoltaic (PV) system ownership financing packages with guaranteed performance are keys to the company’s success, Bouchy explained in an interview.
While many companies in the residential solar sector have embraced a PPA [power purchase agreement] leasing model, Freedom Forever knows that the future of residential solar is in ownership.
“We have focused on providing a wide range of innovative financing options that make ownership attractive to homeowners. We also work closely with our customers to ensure that they receive all the tax benefits and financial incentives available. Of course, we also offer PPA plans and other lease options for those customers that prefer them,” Bouchy told Solar Magazine.
Bouchy singled out Freedom Forever’s 25-year performance guarantee as a key facet of its residential solar finance and installation offerings.
Freedom Forever is the only solar power company that guarantees the output of the customer’s solar power system – that sets us apart from the competition…and gives our customers peace of mind that other companies can’t match.
Fundamentally, what sets Freedom Forever apart from competitors is its customer-centered approach to doing business, Bouchy added. “We seek to establish a long-term business relationship with the customer, rather than looking at selling them a solar power system as a one-time transaction. Freedom Forever provides a service to our customers that resembles something more like a consultant. That creates long-term and reliable relationships with our customers. As our customer’s needs change, we will be there to ensure that they continue to get the most out of their investment in solar power,” he elaborated.
Offering a range of affordable home solar PV system ownership financing options and consistently installing high-quality residential solar PV systems lie at the core of Freedom Forever’s strategic approach to the market. The company sources the components of its residential solar energy systems from major equipment distributors, such as Consolidated Electrical Distributors. It also has direct sourcing relationships with PV panel, inverter and railing systems manufacturers.
Furthermore, Freedom Forever recruits its authorized dealers through word of mouth and social media. “Since we do all of our installations ourselves, we do not recruit other installers,” Bouchy explained.
The declining cost of home solar ownership
Bouchy declined to directly compare the total cost of residential solar energy system ownership and installation in the states where it has a presence. “What we do know is that solar across the board is becoming more affordable and the return on investment for owning a solar energy system is on the rise.”
A variety of fundamental, broad-based factors – technological, economic, political, social and environmental – are shaping, and spurring, residential home solar market growth across the U.S.
We see two technological factors: the rapidly increasing efficiency of solar panels, along with their rapidly dropping cost, as the prime drivers of PV solar growth.
“Along with those, there is increasing public awareness of the need to end our dependence on fossil fuels. Lastly with talk of a green ‘New Deal’ in the incoming Congress, we believe that politically the future looks brighter than ever for PV solar.”
The company is taking steps to realize that goal in 2019. It intends to expand into six new U.S. state markets in 2019.
Assessing prospects for home solar expansion across the U.S.
Freedom Forever management examines and assesses a variety of factors when choosing a new market to expand into. “We look at the average price of electricity to residential customers in that area, and a large market size that is keen to save money via renewables,” Bouchy explained.
A big focus is to look for a solar-friendly regulatory environment with a long-term policy outlook that promotes the growth of alternative energy use. While we are not commenting on the specific states at this time, we look forward to announcing our plans in 2019.
How do utility and state regulatory attitudes, policies, interconnection and other balance-of-system (BOS) costs figure into Freedom Forever’s expansion plans?
“It’s no secret that many utility companies do not favor residential solar. In states without clear net metering policies, utilities can choose how much they will reimburse customers for the energy generated by their solar power systems,” Bouchy responded.
“In those cases, we see utility companies setting rates that can potentially wipe out some of the savings from going solar. Regulatory attitudes vary from state to state, but overall we see the state-level regulatory attitudes becoming more and more pro-solar. Interconnection costs also vary, this time from utility company to utility company. Again, this puts us at the mercy of those utility companies in states without a robust regulatory infrastructure.”
“All of those above factors weigh in on our decision process when looking at states to expand into. Naturally, states like Massachusetts that have robust regulatory policies, plus generous state tax credits and incentives that combine to produce high internal rates of return (IRR) are ideal candidates for expansion.” comment
Photos: courtesy of Freedom Forever