June 19, 2017 Read More →

Owner of Fast-Growing Missouri Solar Company Sees a Seismic Shift in Electricity Generation

St. Louis Post Dispatch:

Little more than five years ago, Caleb Arthur was making $10 an hour as a law enforcement officer in his rural, south-central Missouri hometown of Houston.

Fast forward to today, and the 31-year-old without a college degree is the founder and chief executive officer of a 125-person company that took in $24.5 million in sales last year and ranks as one of Missouri’s fastest-growing businesses.

His new line of work? Rooftop solar panels.

Arthur’s emergence at the helm of Sun Solar, which handles solar installations and energy efficiency upgrades for homes and businesses, would seem tailor-made to become a prized anecdote in political speeches about job creation.

But tales of the dynamic growth of renewable energy are absent from the talking points surrounding President Donald Trump’s energy policy. The administration has made the promotion of fossil fuel industries a central theme, touting their purported job potential amid decisions to withdraw from the Paris climate accord and to roll back regulations on carbon and methane emissions.

Sun Solar, and the solar industry as a whole, runs counter to the rhetoric.

“Believe in climate change or not, these jobs are growing at a faster rate,” said Arthur, who identifies as a lifelong Republican.

Sun Solar’s revenue, he said, has exploded by 888 percent over the last three years. The company still has its original facility in Houston, but Arthur and the company’s headquarters have moved to Springfield, while other offices have opened to serve markets in the Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis areas.

Last year, Sun Solar ranked at No. 156 nationally on Inc. magazine’s annual list of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. It was named the country’s ninth-fastest growing energy company, and the second-fastest growing company in Missouri overall.

Sun Solar’s ascent is largely consistent with industry-wide trends. Data from the Energy Department annual U.S. Energy and Employment Report show that solar power rivals sectors of the fossil fuel industry in overall employment and far outpaces typical job growth in the energy workforce.

Nationwide, for instance, the solar industry employed 373,807 people in 2016 — slightly more than natural gas, and more than twice as many as coal. And while domestic energy employment underwent a yearly increase of almost 5 percent overall, the solar industry saw a 25-percent, one-year jump. (The wind workforce, although it employs fewer people than solar, grew by 32 percent on the year.)

Missouri supports about 3,200 solar jobs, with Sun Solar representing the state’s largest employer in the industry. That’s approximately the same number as those employed in electricity generation from coal and natural gas combined, and also about even with the statewide total for jobs associated with oil and other petroleum fuels.

Besides its impact on jobs alone, Arthur said renewable energy should appeal to his fellow Republicans for reasons related to free-market principles, and its inherent ability to provide customers with choice and self-sufficiency.

He thinks a failure to properly communicate that message is holding it back among conservative policymakers and audiences.

“The biggest challenge that I’ve noticed being in the solar industry for five years is the lack of education to the public,” said Arthur, who tried to share insight with Republican lawmakers as president of the Missouri Solar Energy Industry Association last year.

He thinks they’ll come around. The question is how quickly, he says.

“Is it gonna be five years or 25 years?”Besides its impact on jobs alone, Arthur said renewable energy should appeal to his fellow Republicans for reasons related to free-market principles, and its inherent ability to provide customers with choice and self-sufficiency.

He thinks a failure to properly communicate that message is holding it back among conservative policymakers and audiences.

“The biggest challenge that I’ve noticed being in the solar industry for five years is the lack of education to the public,” said Arthur, who tried to share insight with Republican lawmakers as president of the Missouri Solar Energy Industry Association last year.

He thinks they’ll come around. The question is how quickly, he says.

“Is it gonna be five years or 25 years?”

Meet the young conservative behind Missouri’s fast-growing solar company

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