People of the 10th anniversary Top Solar Contractors list: Hilary Fiene, Stateline Solar
How did you get started with solar energy?
My start in solar energy was as a supporter. My boyfriend at the time, Ethan, always wanted to have his own business and he had a passion for building and being hands-on. We live in a rural area and noticed a need for renewable energy and solar energy intrigued us greatly, so in July 2017 Ethan decided to quit his full time job in construction and we started the first solar installation company in our county and named it Stateline Zonne. When Stateline Solar started, we lived in a tiny two-bedroom house and converted our spare bedroom into our “headquarters.” It was small, but it met our needs at the time; Ethan works full time and I am working with him on Stateline Solar, along with me I work another full time job and a part time job to keep us financially stable as two young individuals, knowing that the ROI comes slowly when we first start start a business. That first year I really supported Ethan’s dreams and made them mine, studying how solar works, best installation practices, researching the best equipment and materials, and so on. We traveled to solar educational courses all over the US and built Stateline Solar. Fast-forward to 2019, Stateline Solar really exploded – we opened our first official store/office location, Ethan and I got married, I was able to quit my job and officially work full time alongside Ethan, we doubled our team – more than 10+ local individuals , and Ethan and I welcomed our first child.
What is your favorite part of working in the solar industry?
Several things make me want to be a part of the solar industry. One of my favorite things is that it really is a community. There are so many great solar/renewable energy organizations that welcome us and share their stories and resources. As a woman in solar energy, the Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE) is a personal favorite. This group of extraordinary women uplift each other and are constantly working to help their members excel in this industry.
What has surprised you most about the solar industry in recent years?
How drastically for the better that the solar industry is constantly evolving and improving. Before my time in solar energy, the cost of systems, materials, installation and so on was beyond the budget of most private homeowners. We hear this all the time from our customers – these individuals who were interested in a solar panel for their home or business 10-15 years ago, and are now discovering how much cheaper it is to use solar energy. Over the past decade, solar materials have become not only more affordable, but also more efficient. The technology is continuously improved every year.
What are your solar predictions for the next 10 years?
I envision many system pairs with EV and battery systems in the solar industry. This has been applied more and more in our rural area over the past year, and I can only foresee a greater need for it as balance meters in our state dwindle along with the proliferation of electric vehicles on the road and push vehicle manufacturers making in the direction of EV production. With this in mind, I hope that batteries will become more affordable as current pricing drives away interested buyers in our area.
How did you/your company stand out in the past year?
I think on a local level we have distinguished ourselves in our community as a key solar installer for our region. We employ all local individuals and in a small community everyone knows everyone, making word of mouth an important part of our business.
How do you help improve the industry?
We hope to provide education for the community to learn how solar energy works and the benefits of renewable energy. Prior to COVID-19, Stateline Solar held monthly free educational sessions for the public to attend, learn how solar energy works, and give participants time to ask questions. We soon learned that there is a lot of myths and false information being spread about the solar industry, so our mission is to break myths and educate. We value transparency and want to make sure everyone is well informed when making the decision to go solar.
What is needed to jump-start the transition to solar energy at a local level?
I may be misunderstanding this question, but if this refers to what would help more local individuals make the leap to solar – INCENTIVES! Incentives are our best tool for sharing the benefits of solar energy. We are from Illinois, which used to have a thriving Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) program, which unfortunately ran out in 2020. So now we pray that our downstate politicians realize the value of replenishing the capacity of the SREC program to help our state not only because it benefits its voters to use solar energy, but also to help Illinois sustain their lives. achieve CO2-neutral goals. Moreover, the extension of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) has been a huge blessing and a right step for the sustainable industry. These incentives, together with the net metering, have a huge impact on our customers’ choice to use solar energy.