For more than three decades, Glenn Bland has been riding a “solarcoaster.” A solar industry pioneer, the Bakersfield businessman has been navigating his Bland Solar & Air through the highs and lows of an emerging technology that is buffeted by increasing competition and a constantly changing regulatory environment.
Through it all, Bland has emerged as an industry leader. And he credits the support he receives from Mission Bank for helping provide the flexibility and financial foundation to focus his Bakersfield-based company on quality and innovation.
“To expand, cash flow can be challenging,” Bland explained. “Mission Bank has been there every step of the way. They are proactive before there is a need. They call. They take time to network with their clients. They’re very involved. It’s a real partnership.”
Bland and his company recently were showcased in a Los Angeles Times feature story for being a solar pioneer and marketing innovator.
“We want to bring a new level of professionalism to the solar industry,” Bland said, explaining his success in growing his company and in convincing Bakersfield and Kern County to embrace solar energy.
Because residential and business customers have many solar options and cost factors to consider, Bland concluded customers needed to be able to make thoughtful purchasing decisions in a no-pressure setting.
In 2014, he opened his company’s first Bakersfield showroom in a 5,000-square-foot storefront next to Trader Joe’s in the Town & Country Village, 8200 Stockdale Highway. The company also now has showrooms in Clovis, Fresno and Templeton.
“By all accounts, owner Glenn Bland runs the largest, most comprehensive solar power showroom in California, with not only panels, but also actual rooftops with the systems mounted for potential customers to see,” the Times reported.
In addition to generating energy to power homes, the solar systems are designed to operate in conjunction with utility company systems. Using a microinverter to distribute electricity, the rooftop solar systems feed excess energy back to the power grid — essentially making a home’s electrical meter spin backward.
Bland estimates that of the 100 installation contracts his company signs each month, more than half are originated in his showrooms.
“It’s been very well received,” he said.
Bland’s company is not a high-pressure sales operation. Founded in 1985, the company’s solar systems complement the energy-efficient heating and cooling systems it has sold, installed and maintained for three decades.
With his company focusing more on the quality of its products and work, rather than on obtaining quick sales, Bland is recognized as a local and national solar energy leader. Through seminars, he also has helped train others in the industry, including competitors, on proper installation methods.
Despite being a major producer of oil, Bakersfield is recognized for its acceptance of “green energy” technologies, especially rooftop solar. According to recent industry research, two Bakersfield ZIP codes are listed in the top 20 in the state for having the highest percentage of residences and businesses with solar installations. The “penetration percentage” in the 93314 ZIP code is No. 1, with 33.2 percent, and in the 93312 ZIP code, it is No. 17, with 18.7 percent.
No doubt, Bakersfield residents recognize the cost savings of installing rooftop solar systems, as utility electricity rates continue to climb.
“The long-term outlook for rooftop solar is positive, particularly as prices have come down,” noted industry analyst Solar Leaderboard on its website www.solarleaderboard.com.
The Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research is forecasting solar energy generation nationwide this year will continue to build on its strong 2016 performance, when generation nearly doubled from 7,493 megawatts in 2015 to 14,626 MW.
Much of this growth was the result of utility-sized solar energy generation plants being brought online. But nationwide, rooftop solar generation also grew 19 percent last year.
In 2012, Bland and associates founded CalCom Solar, a sister company that focuses on solar energy systems for agriculture and water. Within four years, CalCom Solar was ranked third on the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest growing privately owned companies.
“Supporting and encouraging innovative local companies, such as Bland Solar & Air, is an exciting opportunity for Mission Bank,” said A.J. Antongiovanni, Mission Bank’s president and chief executive officer. “It’s all about ‘relationship banking,’ which places a priority on providing a wide range of high-quality services to local businesses.”
By Maureen Buscher-Dang
Originally published in “The Bakersfield Californian”