Contractors Corner: Signal Energy, Chattanooga, Tenn.

Aug 8, 2013

By Julia Engelbracht, Solar Power World

With roots in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Signal Energy entered the renewable energy sector in 2004 and shortly after became an official subsidiary of EMJ Corporation and Barnhart Crane & Rigging, two of the nation's strongest construction companies. Signal Energy now specializes in EPC services for balance of plant utility scale PV and wind installations.

Signal Energy has grown by a factor of five in the last three years alone, doubling growth in the past year. With now close to over 200 employees, their exponential growth has allowed the company to construct about 78 MW of PV in 2012 with hundreds more in their pipeline. Additionally, the company has over 7,500MW of utility scale Wind Farm experience. CEO Ben Fischer sees a bright future for renewable energy with big plans for his company and the solar industry.

"I like that there's great opportunity in the industry for new ideas," Fischer says. "We see innovations in everything from the way solar panels are made to the way foundation systems are created."

Along with several positives, Fischer mentions a few of his own ideas to help solar energy reach its highest potential. A long-term predictable policy for the solar industry, which encourages companies to invest in renewable energy, coupled with a decrease in development transaction costs are among his hopes for the future.

Fischer also urges newcomers to dedicate themselves to a specific area of solar energy.

"When you become the source expert for a particular area, you become invaluable," Fischer says. "You can grow, build and develop relationships in that area."

He continues to recognize the importance of relationships in the business world, encouraging everyone to focus on building those connections for the long term.

Although based in Tennessee, most of Signal Energy's solar projects are conducted elsewhere in the country, largely due to Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) policies regarding utility scale solar energy.

"They have the unique, exclusive right to generate power in this region," says Fischer. "To produce solar or wind power, you have to sell that energy to TVA."

With several years of renewable energy contracting under his belt, Fischer is excited to witness a wealth of growth over the next few decades. For now, he predicts ups and downs as energy makes way to grow greener and cleaner.

"In reducing our cost of energy, it has continued to unfold more dramatically and better than I had ever anticipated," Fischer says. "There's a lot of room for participation, and that makes it very exciting." SPW

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