The Outlook for Solar: Q&A With Borrego Solar CEO Mike Hall

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While venture investments in cleantech startups declined last year, technology advances in renewable energy remain a hot area of interest for both cleantech innovators and investors. In an effort to gain a better understanding of the solar energy market, especially in the photovoltaic segment of the industry, I sought insights from Mike Hall, the CEO of El Cajon, CA-based Borrego Solar Systems.

Borrego is a fast-growth company that finances, designs, and installs grid-connected photovoltaic solar systems. Much of Borrego Solar’s business is concentrated in New England and California. Before getting to our Q&A, however, a little background is in order.

Borrego Solar Systems was a dormant, 20-year-old business when Aaron Hall, a senior at Northwestern University, developed a venture business plan for the small solar company as part of an undergraduate entrepreneurship class. A Hall family friend, San Diego State University physics professor James Rickard, had started the company in 1980, in part to install a solar system on his off-the-grid home in Borrego Springs, a small desert town east of San Diego. Rickard liked Hall’s business plan so much that he sold half the business to Hall, who took over at Borrego shortly after his 2001 graduation. They each put in $20,000 to restart the company.

Borrego Solar workers at UCSDSince then, Hall says the company, which is based in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, CA, has grown into one of the nation’s top five contractors specializing in designing and installing grid-connected photovoltaic solar systems. With more than 165 employees in seven offices nationwide, Borrego Solar says it has installed more than 1,000 photovoltaic systems.

Last year, Inc. magazine named Borrego Solar to its list of “Fastest-Growing Private Companies” for the third year in a row. Inc. ranked Borrego Solar at No. 321 in the magazine’s 2009 list of 500 fastest-growing companies, based … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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