People of the 10th anniversary Top Solar Contractors list: Tom Wu, Invaleon Solar

For the 10th anniversary of the Top Solar Contractors list, we’re sharing Q&A’s with the people who make the industry run every day. Read more interviews here.

How’d you get started in solar?

During my senior year of college, I had to make a very difficult decision. There were two options available: enter the highly competitive job market or start my own business. At the time, there was major job scarcity due to the Great Recession. Fortunately, my degree was in mechanical engineering, so I was equipped with the right skill set to handle the competitive climate. I decided to put my time and energy into learning all about renewable energy. After countless hours of research and educating myself on everything related to solar installation and technology, I started a new business called Invaleon Technologies Corporation, which would later be known as Invaleon Solar!

I reached out to my friends and family, and also went door-to-door trying to build a residential solar customer base. I built credibility not only for my business, but also for widespread adoption of solar as an affordable and reliable source of energy. I believe my success can be credited to spending time educating the general public about the benefits of solar, including understanding federal, state and local solar policy and incentives.

What’s your favorite part about being in the solar industry?

I am constantly trying new things. The solar industry is always evolving and pushes me and my team to challenge one another, improve and expand. Working in the solar industry is inspiring because I am able to see the meaningful impact it makes and work with new and upcoming generations of innovators.

What has surprised you the most about the solar industry in the last 10 years?

I have been most surprised about how willing everyone is in the industry to help each other out. The level of cooperation is unmatched.

What are your solar predictions for the next 10 years?

I predict that solar and storage will become a necessity. Furthermore, I anticipate that we will replace enough fossil fuel to start reversing detrimental climate change.

How’d you/your company stand out in the last year?

Invaleon managed to not only stay in business during a global pandemic, but remained completely operational and even hired additional employees. We were able to get PPE quickly and implemented COVID-19 protocols and practices to keep our customers and employees safe. Invaleon was able to demonstrate its resiliency during a time that could have made us very vulnerable.

How are you helping to improve the industry?

Invaleon is an integral member of the solar community and industry. Our company helps to improve the industry by building a responsible and growing business. The more talented and passionate professionals Invaleon can employ, the more mature the industry will become. Invaleon is part of two programs to help educate the next generation of solar industry providers: a high school co-op and college internship program. As a direct result of the programs, several of the students received full-time job offers and are now employed at Invaleon.

What was it like entering the market in 2011?

Literally, like a cowboy in the Wild West. However, being a resident of Massachusetts, I had a good reason to start a solar company. In April 2007, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick announced a goal of 250 MW of solar to be installed by 2017. At the time, only about 3 MW of solar had been built in the state. To help with such aggressive renewable energy goals, Gov. Patrick worked with the legislature to pass several key policies including the Green Communities Act, Global Warming Solutions Act and the Green Jobs Act. These policies are credited for helping Massachusetts meet and well-exceed its solar installation goals!

How has your solar business changed from when it started?

We have spent a great deal of time formalizing many roles, responsibilities and processes. Now, Invaleon has approximately 40 employees and serves customers in the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. Invaleon not only installs solar and battery storage, but in-houses all services including engineering, procurement and construction. Invaleon has installed more than 50 MW of residential and commercial solar and continues to lead the charge in creating a brighter future for New England and beyond!

The biggest accomplishment is our size and the wide array of careers and disciplines that we have. We have tradesmen, engineers, marketing, sales, development and support all under one roof. A company is only as good as its team, so having the right people in place and everyone collaborating with each other is crucial.

Ten years on, what advice would you give yourself or the company back in 2011?

My advice is to keep at it and have grit. While Invaleon has many milestones to celebrate, there’s still so much work to be done. The renewable energy industry is always evolving, and so is Invaleon. Every day poses new and exciting challenges for me and my team. The solar industry still hasn’t finished growing yet, so the excitement and anticipation continues as we discover how this industry is going to morph into its ultimate form. You just have to be forward-thinking and flexible to change with whatever happens. Invaleon is ready. Bring it on!

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