Interview with Adam Schmidt, Project Resource Officer at Midwest Solar Power
Tell us more about Midwest Solar Power’s ‘origin story’…
Founded in 2009 by Rik Rosenlund and Tom Schlaefer who previously worked together in residential construction, the goal of MSP was to engage in more impactful prospects. They wanted to bring together their expertise in construction, project management and customer service and soon realized that solar was a field they believed in and were confident they could improve. Over the years, they became experts and built a happy customer base. MSP was also strengthened by the additions of Michael Reuter and Adam Schmidt. Michael Reuter brought his renewable energy and architectural technology training from Madison College along with a passion for green building and renewable energy to MSP to help grow the business and has grown into an ownership role over the last 5 years. Adam Schmidt joined in Feb 2021 with an engineering background and an eagerness to address climate change.
What do you customers appreciate most about your work?
Midwest Solar Power makes sure every installation gets full attention to assure each customer has a positive experience. They solicit feedback from customers after an installation. Customers appreciate that they take the time to answer questions in detail, even simple ones, and not brush off any of their concerns. One consistent thing customers say is that they feel their company is very kind and respects the customer’s home and family during the installation – especially if going inside. They appreciate that the install crew has a positive disposition and cleans up after themselves after the job is done.
Tell us more about the different types of projects Midwest Solar Power handles
The biggest focus is residential solar, which currently makes up about 90% of their business. Midwest Solar Power has been involved in several low income housing projects, churches of faith, and non-profit organizations both with the support of legacy solar coop and private developers. They really have no size minimum or maximum, but the largest project they have done to date is 250 kW. They have done a number of very small projects for folks who have already scaled down their energy use.
What does your team think about from one install to the next…
At the beginning of the week, staff have a weekly meeting to make sure the team is all on the same page for the week ahead and look at the previous week in review for areas of process improvement. Adam is one of Midwest Solar Power’s designated office staff and works on site plans, scheduling and inspections. Because of his role, he has a longer-range view, making sure documents are prepared ahead of time to ensure jobs are done on time. He also addresses customer concerns as they come up and identifies processes that will mitigate such concerns in the future. At the end of the year, Adam coordinates a year-end data analysis to include the number of installations by location, drive time to job sites, types of equipment manufacturers they are using and how often and range of system sizes. The team also reviews processes that have been successful, what they would repeat and changes they should make.
What has been your experience with supply chain issues over the past year?
At times, certain solar panel brands or inverters are not available. Occasionally it has made procurement difficult or necessitated equipment flexibility to keep the project on track. Adam’s role helps accommodate these changes and the company has an easier time making schedule adjustments.
Tell us about making an impact in your communities…
Midwest Solar Power makes an impact in their service area by keeping their installations in and around the Madison area. Keeping their focus narrow helps to make sure that they are promoting distributed energy resources in their own backyard. They also are proud of the installations they do for local businesses. For example, this year they installed a roof-mount solar array for Gentle Breeze Honey in Mount Horeb and West Star Organics in Cottage Grove. In the past, they have installed systems for Goodwill, Union Cab, Milios, VFW Post 8486, Hempstation Fields, Solidarity Real Estate, Greenleaf Media, and many other local organizations including many houses of faith in the area. Helping local organizations go solar allows them to focus additional resources on the good work they do right here in Madison. They also are currently investigating ways to increase the accessibility of their solar offerings for lower income households.
Tell us about the most interesting or unique system you have installed.
One system that they are really proud of is their 2020 installation for the Dodge County Housing Authority (photo is attached), a low-income housing nonprofit. This was before Adam’s time at Midwest Solar Power, but the whole team was proud to help bring the benefits of solar to a different type of housing arrangement than the more traditional single-family home. One of the key challenges for the solar industry moving forward is to ensure that folks of all ages, races, genders, and income levels have equitable access to clean energy. The solar industry is far from perfect, but we celebrate each small success along the way.
Tell us about Midwest Solar Power’s operations…
Midwest Solar Power has 10 total staff, with 7 full time and 3 part time. Currently they run on one crew, which completes 2-3 installations per week. They have 2 full time installers, 2 part time installers, and the owners will occasionally help with an install as well depending on project complexity and scheduling (to fill in for time off for example). Everyone who isn’t an installer does some amount of the following: sales, site assessments, system design, project management, permit and utility documentation and tracking, shipping and receiving, accounting, business planning, etc. Everyone wears a lot of hats in such a small company! In the end, with just 10 people, they will be able to install over 800 kW of solar this year. They are proud of the operation they run and are looking forward to expanding in the future.