People of the 10th anniversary Top Solar Contractors list: Matt Dankers, Blattner

For the 10th anniversary of the Top Solar Contractors list, we’re sharing Q&As with the people who make the industry run every day. Read more interviews here.

How did you get started with solar energy?

I started as an intern at Blattner in 2006, working on wind energy projects. As the renewable energy industry progressed, I helped the company explore solar building. In 2013, Blattner started building part of our solar business and a year later, the company had fully expanded its solar services offering. Blattner is passionate about people and thrives on collaborative relationships and innovation – which are some of the reasons Blattner has been so successful in renewable energy. That’s also why I still enjoy working in the wind and solar space at Blattner today.

What is your favorite part of working in the solar industry?

It’s great to see where solar energy is going. It is exciting to be involved with all the strategic thinkers and innovators who are taking a market that was only emerging 10 years ago and structuring it into a force to be reckoned with. Another thing I love about working in solar is seeing everyone work together and get better at developing this sustainable market. It is really an advantage to have great competitors in this market. We make the industry better. Solar energy is very dynamic – there are solar module innovations, efficiency opportunities and a lot of progress ahead. I think we’re just getting started. We’re partnering with the biggest IPPs, the utilities, plus non-traditional oil and gas companies that are all behind solar and pushing it into places we can’t even foresee.

What has surprised you most about the solar industry in the past 10 years?

The incredible ramp-up rate of this market. We knew it would grow fast, but I don’t think any of us would have thought it would grow that fast. And that we’ve been able to keep up the pace – that the developers, the owners, the EPCs and the supply chain were all able to keep pace. I’m going to look back one day and be amazed at what we’ve been through.

What are your solar predictions for the next 10 years?

Looking ahead, solar is not on the charts in terms of growth potential as the wind market starts to even out. When you combine that potential with solar + storage, the prospects get really exciting. Blattner does a lot of storage these days, and we’re gearing up for even more. Storage technology allows us to provide power even when the sun isn’t shining and that brought it to its own realm.

In 24 years, Blattner has built 50,000 megawatts of renewable energy — and we’ll build the next 50,000 in five to seven years because the market will demand it. Renewable energy growth will continue to grow from there. Twenty years ago, the markets weren’t there because there weren’t many opportunities for them. Yet we have built up a third of the wind market in the country and a strong share of the solar market. Today the markets are there, and they are strong. From the workforce, customers and suppliers to business buyers, the private sector and consumers demanding more clean energy – we’ll have to build it.

How has your/your company distinguished itself in the past year?

Thanks to our incredible nationwide team, I’m proud to say that Blattner has reached an industry milestone that few, if any, other renewable energy providers have ever achieved. We have officially passed the 50,000 megawatt milestone. In just over two decades, we have installed more than 25,000 wind turbines and nearly 32 million solar panels. While knowing how that work has impacted our world and made it better for future generations, which is invaluable. We also really started diving into more solar energy + storage. Last year alone, in the midst of a global upheaval, we worked hard to keep our teams safe and installed more than 6,400 MW of renewable energy. We completed more than 40 renewable energy phases for 37 projects. That doesn’t happen without a dedicated team of leaders, innovators and partners.

huhhow do you/your company help improve the industry?

Blattner guides through what needs to be done and provides security in construction. So we push in the better technology, looking for the next solution and looking for innovation for the greater good. We know there is room to get smarter, safer and lead the way in driving positive change. We are driven to improve and expand our team. That’s why we value investing in our employees and listening to them now more than ever to make their lives better and safer. That’s just another way Blattner takes the lead in doing what needs to be done, not what’s been done. Through our innovations and improvements, we contribute to making renewable energy competitive with traditional power generation methods. We are constantly improving, growing and changing with the industry.

Business development has been so different in the past year. How has the way you ‘have done business’ been different?

The connections are different, but they are still very personal. We may not shake hands and go to meetings, but we have found several practical, meaningful and respectful ways to connect. After being on the road full-time for 16 years, I’ve found that we don’t have to travel across the country to have a two-hour meeting with 10 people to get the job done. We have all become more efficient with our time and respect people’s work-life balance. That gives everyone a bit of quality of life back. That’s why, and the trust we’ve built, we do great things with our customers. We’re just getting started. At Blattner, we will continue to focus on our customers and the people who work for us. That ultimately makes this market what it is. It is the people and the relationships that move us forward.

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