APRIL, 2018.

My little house, Chevy Volt in the driveway, with 10.2 kW of solar on the roof…house with solar

This has been a big month. On Monday, April 2nd I sat down with Randy Crain and signed the paperwork to finalize the sale of Balloon Distractions.

BD had been in my life for 14 years and 7 months, and with one stroke of a pen (and a check from Randy) I was no longer a shareholder.

I had been neglecting the balloon business since early 2017 when I started working with Tampa Bay Solar. If Randy had not bought me out the entire business might have just faded away to nothing.

The day after I sold BD I had one of my biggest days in solar, with 2 deals closed. I took that as a sign from the universe… a few weeks later I finally got solar on my roof, I had been waiting to replace the roof before my system was installed, here is a close up:

front of roof .jpg

The multiple photovoltaic panels produce $200 per month in electricity, while the longer panel in the middle heats the water for my home and stores it in an 80 gallon Rheem storage tank in my garage.

Elsewhere in the solar biz TBS landed the Citrus County Co-op contract, this gives Tampa Bay Solar the chance to get in front of about 100 homeowners who are highly interested in getting a system… and I get to be the point man on the project. This means I’m in Citrus County a few times a week to close deals at a reduced rate. Not bad work, if you can get it.

This month was really the conclusion of a specific chapter in my life. When I started BD I was 29 years old, with 2 daughters in elementary school. As I start this new chapter my daughters are now in college, and I’m doing something that has purpose AND profit. Balloon Distractions was just about profit, I was never a fan of balloon twisting or anything that went with that!

I’ve been a green tech enthusiast going back to 2001 when I sold the first generation Prius at Antwerpen Toyota up in Clarksville Maryland. Now that I’m fully immersed in the solar business (representing the right company) I feel like I’m where I need to be, at the right place and the right time.

Unless they stop manufacturing solar panels I have a limitless opportunity to earn a living, I’ve learned so much about the solar business in the past year, closing deals for everything from photovoltaic arrays and battery back-ups to pool heaters and solar pool pumps.

-Ben Alexander

April, 2018

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The Electric company in 2050.

For most of his career my father worked at a nuclear reactor in southern New Jersey, previous to that he was a lineman for PSE&G, the main electric utility in NJ. Now that I’m in the solar business with Tampa Bay Solar we have some interesting conversations; not only about energy, but also about electric cars and some of the other changes coming down the line.

The traditional electric company business model was to generate and deliver electricity. Most of the power in the United States comes from a mix of nuclear, coal and now natural gas generation facilities.

Out of 100 million homes across the United States about 1% currently have some form of rooftop solar. Here in Florida solar panels generate power from about 9AM to 6PM (depending on the season) and some of that power gets sent back to the grid via a bi-directional meter.

If you do not have solar your meter only measures power from the electric company to YOU, with a bidirectional meter you can send kilowatts back to the electric company for a 1 for 1 credit. My Dad has a small 14 panel system on his roof, last month his system pushed 75 kilowatts (kW) back to the grid.

Dad still has to pay a minimum connection fee of $30 per month to the electric company, because his system draws power from the utility at night.

This is also known as net metering, and it works well here in Florida.

As more homes install rooftop solar there will be a need for energy storage during the peak daylight hours, and one way to implement this is through the use of plug in electric vehicles. My 2013 Volt has a 16 kilowatt battery, the newer Tesla models have 100 kilowatt batteries, and in the next few years cars with 200 kilowatt batteries (or larger) will become commonplace and affordable.

An affordable electric car with a 200 kW battery will have a 500 mile range per daily charge. These cars will be expensive as new models (in the $30,000 range) but on the used market they will go for the same price as a used 4 cylinder car like a Camry or Accord.

Imagine several million cars each plugged into the grid on a daily basis with 200 kW of storage capacity per vehicle. Some of these vehicles can charge at night (when electricity is cheaper and more plentiful) and sell back to the grid during peak usage.

My point? We will still need the electric company to move power from rooftops to charge stations to the rest of the grid. We still need a hard wired grid, but for different reasons.

The electric company in 2050 will manage the flow of energy, probably in some type of open marketplace that trades energy credits back and forth. Your car can sell 50kW back to the grid during the daytime, so will your rooftop solar. At night you can get those credits back.

I don’t mind paying a small monthly fee to the grid, especially if it allows me to sell energy back to the system in peak demand times.   

Some homes will never have solar, either because the homeowner refuses to install it or there is too much shade around the home. Older homes in communities with mature trees are normally not viable for solar.

In the next decade the electric company should see an increase in demand as more electric cars replace gas powered vehicles.

Demand for electricity will also increase as new communities are built. Here in Florida there is new residential and commercial construction all over the place. People are still moving to the sunshine state in droves.

The traditional electric utility will have to evolve, and the best way to do that is to add value to the marketplace in such a way that your customers don’t mind paying a modest fee on a monthly basis.

Ben Alexander

January 2018.

From knocking doors to Sales Director.

About a year ago I decided to get into the solar business.

I called a bunch of installers and none of them would talk to me, I was getting blown off. But I didn’t give up.

I bought a $3 clipboard at Walgreens and printed up a “solar info” form.

Without anyone to represent I went out and knocked doors.

I kept calling installers, I kept getting dismissed, and I kept knocking doors.

I finally got Steve Rutherford on the phone, the owner of Tampa Bay Solar. I told him that I had a clipboard full of leads “I want to meet you Steve, where are you right now?”

Steve was installing an impressive commercial array on 1810 West Kennedy. When I got there I showed him my clipboard full of leads. He probably thought I was a little nuts, but he gave me a shot.

In the next few months I doubled the sales volume at Tampa Bay Solar. Steve no longer had to run around selling all over Tampa Bay, now he could focus on the operational side of the business. He bought 2 new work trucks to handle the increased volume.

Today I’m the Sales Director for the company, training the team, designing our sales training system and teaching my team how to earn a six figure income.

I’ve personally closed over $1.4 million in deals… and I was turned away by at least 20 other solar installers.

By not taking my call those other companies made a very expensive mistake.

You can’t wait for it to come to you, sometimes you have to just get out there and make it happen. I was rejected by installers, rejected at the door, but I didn’t let that curb my determination.

The key here is that I’m still out there knocking doors, still out there making it happen.

I’ll knock 500 doors today, to fill up my Friday / Saturday schedule.

Speed of the Leader, Speed of the Team!

Ben Alexander

November 2017

Bolting around…

About a week ago I got a text from Tim at Wesley Chapel Chevy: “Ben, I got a new Bolt in stock, come over and check it out.”

I bought a used 2013 Chevy Volt from Tim in January of 2017, and I had asked him to let me know when the all electric Bolt arrived on the lot. My 2013 Volt is a plug-in electric car with a gas generator, 35 miles of electric range, about 285 miles on gas alone.

As you can see from the picture above the Bolt has 238 miles of range, NO gas engine at all. Like the Tesla or the Nissan Leaf this is the real deal.

My 2013 Volt is fast, but the new Bolt is REALLY fast. It jumps off the line like a jack rabbit, feels solid on the road, and I was very impressed. MUCH faster than any four cylinder gas powered vehicle, and probably even faster than most cars with a V-6!

The only electric car faster than the Bolt, that I’ve driven, is the Tesla Model S. I’ve test driven the Cadillac ELS, the Leaf, the Prius (ugh) and even the Fiskar Karma…. the Bolt beats them all, hands down.

The Bolt sells in the $30,000 range, which means used versions of this car will be on the market in the next 2 years for under $20,000.  

This means that the new Bolt can be a car for the masses, in some households a gently used Bolt will replace that old 4 cylinder Camry or Accord. If a Prius driver takes a look at the Bolt they will be blown away by the amazing acceleration.

The new Chevy Bolt is a game changer, most middle class people will never pony up $70,000 for a Tesla, but the Bolt puts a great electric car in the range of anyone who makes an average middle class income. If there are 2 cars in your household the Bolt can be used for commuting to work, while you can use your gas powered Ford Explorer to visit Grandma in Atlanta next weekend.

If you look at most married couples earning 2 incomes there is always one partner with a shorter commute, maybe 40 miles each way to work. With 238 miles of range the Bolt can cover that round trip easily, with another 140 miles of range for errands. If you charge your Bolt every night you will wake up every morning with another 238 miles of range.

I sell solar here in Tampa Bay for a living, so cars like the Bolt give solar buyers yet another reason to get solar on their roof.

Your new Bolt can run 100% on sunshine….

The future is here folks, brought to you by Chevy, who woulda thunk?

-Ben Alexander

TampaBaySolar.com

October 10, 2017

Mary Barra, a CEO for the future.

Take a moment to check out this interview of Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors:

The Chevy BOLT (full electric) car is now being sold all over the United States. It has a 230 mile range per electric charge, and it costs about $30,000 after the federal tax incentive.

Mary Barra has driven the growth of  electric drive technology at General Motors, thus changing a hide-bound culture that resisted change for many years.

Perhaps it took the leadership of a female CEO to make this happen!

Either way I’m glad that GM has shifted in this direction, I drive a gas / electric 2013 Chevy Volt, my next car will most likely be the full electric Bolt.

1 Chevy Bolt + 8kW solar array on the roof = ZERO $$ spent on gas at the pump!

Ben Alexander

July . 2017

UK bans gas powered cars by 2040.

The picture above illustrates the smog problem in London.

This week in the United Kingdom the government announced a ban on the sale of new fossil fueled vehicles by the year 2040. There are 31 million registered vehicles in the UK right now, and the ban does not take place for another 23 years, but it signals to car manufacturers globally that they have to develop more alternative / electric powertrain technology if they want to keep selling vehicles in the UK.

The government in India has enacted a similar ban by the year 2030. There are over 60 million cars and trucks in India today, with robust growth in car ownership expected over the next 13 years.

As a country India is rapidly expanding their solar infrastructure as well, there are currently more than 300 million people in India who lack access to the power grid. The uptake of solar will improve countless lives, and this power source goes hand in hand with 100 million electric vehicles on Indian roads.

In 2016 over 350,00 new electric vehicles were registered in China, compared to about 150,000 new electric vehicles here in the United States. In 2016 across China 36 gigawatts of solar capacity was installed, compared to 14 gigawatts of new solar here in the United States.

Here is the current mix:

China has the most solar, followed by Japan, Germany and the USA.

The growth of solar installations and electric cars in England, India and China is not only driven by the federal government, but also by air pollution concerns in the major cities of these three countries. This is a good day / bad day in Beijing:

We don’t have as many air quality concerns here in the United States, with 320 million people in this country we are not as densely populated (per square kilometer) as China with 1.3 billion and India with over 1 billion people.

The city of Wuhan has a larger population that New York and Chicago combined!

The rest of the world seems to be ahead of the United States in regards to the uptake of green technology. China has to adopt electric vehicles because of the poor air quality in their cities.

Florida is still pretty slow in terms of adopting solar, but I’m going out there every day and spreading the word. Yesterday I sold 2 residential solar installs right here in Tampa Bay. Green tech has to make economic sense for the consumer, both of my sales yesterday were to conservative police officers!

100 million homes in the USA, only about 1% have solar today. BIG opportunity there.

Ben Alexander

July . 2017

Freedom to choose.

Every Tuesday night I head over to New Tampa to attend the weekly meeting for  Life Leadership. I’ve been involved in LIFE since 2014, at times building the business, at other times just as a student of the leadership and debt free material.

Part of my recent success with Tampa Bay Solar has to do with what I’ve learned in the LIFE business, I’ve also been fortunate to make many good friends in LIFE, people of faith and integrity who are moving in a positive direction.

When I teach the “Go Debt Free” class over at Harvester Methodist I use the LIFE Financial Fitness Program as a teaching aid.

Last night I was talking to Anna, a smart young woman in our LIFE group who was telling me how she felt limited working as a hairstylist in a traditional job.

I haven’t had a traditional job since 2003. Even working in the solar biz I’m self-motivated, I have no regular schedule. I close deals then send the paperwork to the main office in Tampa.

If I want to go watch a movie on any given afternoon I am free to do so.  

This gives me the freedom to run Balloon Distractions, share the LIFE business with new team members, or go after solar commissions. In the last week or so I was working on the final edit for my 2nd book, Fishing on Wednesday, which I wrote in my free time.

I have 4 streams of income: balloons, solar, the LIFE business and book sales on Amazon from my first book:

There is something to be said for designing YOUR life on YOUR terms, entrepreneurship is the best way to do that.

Some might say “Hey Ben, you don’t own Tampa Bay Solar, how are you a business owner there?”

If you work as an Independent Contractor, even in sales for a larger entity, you ARE in business for yourself without the overhead costs of trucks, employees, rent on a warehouse or having to pay for inventory!

Been there, tried that…. Balloon Distractions was a balloon supplier for awhile, with a fancy office, storage space full of balloons, a secretary at a front desk… and a ton of monthly overhead.

All of that is GONE, I run all FOUR of my income sources from my home office; 1 desktop computer, 1 old printer, 1 used desk and a smartphone.

There are boxes of supplies in the back of my Volt, some LIFE CD’s, some solar brochures, some balloon twisting aprons….

My goal has always been to reach total debt freedom, own my house outright with zero mortgage, and travel all over the planet. By establishing these different sources of income (over time) I’m setting things up to accomplish these goals.

Anna and her husband Shawn are smart, young, and they have tremendous potential to lead a BIG life with lotsa options. They are learning the right thinking NOW that will set them up for big things later!

That’s exciting!

Ben Alexander

July . 2017