In the fast-growing solar industry, Charleston-based SolBright Energy Solutions is making a name for itself. And three CofC alumni are helping to fuel that reputation.
Jason Kechijian ’00, Gervais Baker ’16 and Kevin Singletary ’17 each followed different paths to the growing field of solar energy, with each alum finding a home at SolBright.
“SolBright is reflective of the growing solar industry,” says Singletary. “It is a business that demonstrates how people of different backgrounds and educations are finding a career in renewable energy.”
SolBright is a commercial solar company that executes every facet of a solar project, including engineering, procurement and construction, for office buildings, industrial complexes, military bases, schools and parking complexes.
As Head of Systems and Engineering, Kechijian plays a critical role in every aspect of SolBright‘s projects. He leads the designs of each Photovoltaic Solar Power solar system and helps manage construction and purchasing. He describes his job simply as, “I’ve got to make sure the ‘T’s’ are crossed.”
Kechijian’s journey into the world of solar wasn’t a straight path. After college, he put his business administration degree to work in the fields of construction, property management and real estate. Following the real estate market crash of 2008, Kechijian decided he did not want to work in such a volatile market. Instead, he wanted to work somewhere that not only looked to the future, but where he could also have a hand in creating the future.
Kechijian practically started fresh in 2008 when he chose solar as his new career. He quickly became an expert, and by 2011 he became the third person in South Carolina to be designated a NABCEP Certified PV Installation Professional by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.
He joined the SolBright team in 2012 and is now one of the most experienced solar experts in the state, using his background in business to help drive the solar industry forward.
Singletary and Baker made their way to SolBright as interns ahead of graduation. Baker’s work ethic was so impressive that SolBright created the position of project coordinator in order to keep him on the team and hire him full time. Similarly, Singletary’s administrative prowess landed him the position of planning coordinator.
As a physics major, Baker’s focus was on energy production, which has given him literacy in all the technical aspects of his job. Meanwhile, his communication minor prepared him to work with and manage SolBright’s subcontractors.
As an urban studies major, Singletary was perhaps the most likely of the three to end up at a renewable energy company. In his role as planning coordinator, Singletary sets the stage for a project to hit the ground running through permitting and scheduling. He takes projects from a potential or hypothetical stage and paves the way for engineering and construction to actually take place.
For Baker, the work is rewarding. “I’m just glad to be in a job where the end product is something I can be proud of,” he says.
But SolBright isn’t just about outfitting commercial buildings with solar panels. The company has higher environmental ambitions than that. For example, SolBright installs solar farms at old landfills and brownfield sites, allowing utilities to make use of the barren, unlivable land and to offer clean, cheap energy to everyone on the surrounding utility grid.
As Baker puts it, “As the land itself has long been deemed useless due to contamination and issues with its previous use, these projects can completely renovate a large area of land and make it important and meaningful to the surrounding community again.”
Recently, SolBright completed a solar array to power Mount Pleasant Water Works (effectively taking the utility off the utility), which put the facility completely on renewable energy. Designed by Kechijian, with Singletary and Baker coordinating the project and its construction, the water facility no longer draws its energy from coal. Thanks to SolBright and three CofC alums, Mount Pleasant’s water is now powered by the sun.