Solterra CEO Spotlight: Meet Aimee Carpenter
Solterra CEO Spotlight: Meet Aimee Carpenter
For this month’s Spotlight, we are excited to introduce the owner and CEO of Solterra, Aimee Carpenter!
Aimee is a native Washingtonian with a passion for green initiatives, serving her community, and salsa dancing.
Q: Aimee, We know you as the CEO at Solterra, but tell us about your path to becoming the owner and CEO.
A: I started in solar back in 2008 at a different solar company in town doing sales and design. That was a challenging time to be in construction selling a product that was still expensive and had very low adoption rates. But I persisted and fell in love with the technology and the people that the industry seemed to attract. I joined the team at Solterra in 2011 as the sales and marketing manager. Our team was very small as we were starting out in 2011, but I grew our sales team from a team of one (me!) to a team of six today.
In 2017, I felt I had helped navigate multiple ups and downs on the “solarcoaster”, which is the industry term for the trials and tribulations that being part of the energy industry brings. We had overcome multiple changes in incentive programs and policy as well as internal growing pains. I thought I was ready to make a transition to a new role so that I could continue to grow and develop my professional skills. I was planning to move to a large organization so I could influence positive change in a corporate setting, but when speaking with the founder of Solterra, the conversation quickly evolved from an exit strategy to me taking over the solar division of Solterra. I had a moment of truth where I asked myself if I was ready or capable of running a company, but in the end, I decided to ignore the little voice of the imposter syndrome and to fake it till I make it. I officially became owner and CEO of Solterra Solar January 1, 2018, and didn’t look back. I am so grateful for this opportunity and have grown more as a leader than I ever would have if I had followed my original vision. I have been able to make some impactful changes to the company and to embrace the belief that when you take care of your team, the business will thrive. We were able to navigate 2020 without permanent layoffs and our team and customers were kept healthy and safe.
Q: Describe what Solterra means to you.
A: Solterra is a reflection of the values I have for how business can be run. Yes, a business has to make some profit to stay in business, but the people for me are the most important focus. I am a strong believer in work/life balance, planning for the future, and treating team members and customers with respect. Despite being a small company, I have always prioritized time off, retirement planning and giving back to our community. I also try to encourage and empower team members to push themselves out of their comfort zone. We have had multiple solar installers become electricians and our current sales manager, Kevin Crowley, started as an installer, became an electrician, transitioned to being a Solar Design Consultant and now has replaced me as the sales manager. I am extremely passionate about empowerment and mentorship; I strive to give my team as much opportunity for growth as possible.
Q: Where do you think the solar industry will be in the next 5 to 10 years?
Grid interactive solar, i.e. your standard solar panel installation that allows a home to run off solar and sell excess power to the grid, is essentially a mature technology at this point. Solar panels have been around since the ‘50s and have come a long way since. Over the past 13 years, I have seen costs come down substantially and 2021 was the first year that we have seen material costs go up instead of down.
The next steps in massive-scale solar adoption are storage and smart home/grid technology. In the past, our clients were often the first home in the neighborhood or even city to do solar. Now, frequently multiple homes in the same block have solar panels! That is exciting but also presents challenges for the utility. In places like California, there is so much solar flowing onto the grid in the afternoon that there is more energy available than there is demand. When you add a battery to a solar installation, you can manipulate when and how a home interacts with the grid. This will allow for a much higher percentage of homes connected to the grid to utilize solar while still allowing the grid to maintain a stable power supply to homes and businesses that do not have solar. Smart home technology is key in helping homes to be more efficient and maximize the amount of their consumption that can be covered by solar.
Q: What about the solar industry excites you most?
A: This is such a superior technology to the status quo! I love efficiency – and a distributed power grid, i.e. putting a power source on your roof, is a much more efficient way to power our communities. Electricity must travel only a few feet to the point of use with a household solar installation and puts to use otherwise unusable space (your roof!). Plus, every home that adds solar ends up using less electricity due to their increased awareness of how and when they use power, and we typically see at least one friend or neighbor add solar.
Q: How would you describe yourself in one word?
A: Tenacious. Full disclosure, this is always my go-to word when asked this question and I love the definition of “persistent determination”. I don’t give up easily, especially if I am pushing for something that I feel passionately about.
Q: What do you like to do with your free time?
A: I am working on a second solar business in Austin, Texas, called Good Energy Solar. Texas is growing very rapidly and its grid has many challenges, so I am excited to be a part of the energy revolution there. Because I split my time between Austin and Seattle, I have been enjoying getting to know a new city.
I do prioritize mental health and balance, so I make sure to get some time to disconnect each week. I recently started doing cycle studio and barre classes. I also love upcycling, thrift shopping, and creative home improvement projects. The most recent notable project is a stock tank plunge pool (seriously these are so cool as an alternative to a swimming pool). Finally, I have been dancing salsa for over a decade and used to be on a Seattle performance team. The pandemic put that on pause, but I look forward to getting back to dancing in the near future.
To receive a free estimate on going solar, click here.
Paige Farris (she/her) is the Solar Admin and Office Manager at Solterra Solar. A Kentucky native, she’s fond of hiking, traveling, dinosaurs, and recently began roller skating. When she isn’t in the office working on a solar project, she enjoys being outside or doing something creative (or both!).