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Argand Energy Solutions LLC: Bringing Power and Peace of Mind to the Carolinas
Argand Energy Solutions LLC (Argand) is a design-build solar project developer and contractor that is helping to expand the use of solar energy throughout the Carolinas and the Southeastern United States. As the U.S. continues its march toward energy independence, the financing and construction of renewable energy production facilities will be important steps in making that happen. The technology for solar energy has improved dramatically in the last decade and the number of solar production facilities has soared in recent years as the costs have come down dramatically.
Erik Lensch, who founded Argand in 2007, outlines the company’s early history as follows: “I was vice president in charge of wealth management for a major U.S. bank when I decided to make a career change and jumped into the solar industry with both feet by purchasing a small company that distributed solar-energy products. That company, SC Solar Inc., specialized in solar water pumps and solar products. Initially I was the only employee, but within 30 days I added two employees. We then formed Argand Energy Solutions to go after the larger market of solar installation and project development. We currently employ over 20 people in three locations. We have transformed into a commercial contractor specializing in the design-build, installation, maintenance and finance of large-scale solar facilities.”
Tracing its roots back to 1999, Argand now provides comprehensive solar solutions to an array of commercial, government, educational and residential clients. The Argand team includes design engineers, consultants, project managers, licensed electricians and solar technicians, and the firm handles all aspects of construction and development internally.
“We find the site, negotiate the lease – or power purchase agreement – and work with the utility for the sale of power,” reveals Lensch, who remains president of the company. “We find the investors to finance the projects, design and build the projects, and we provide the ongoing maintenance for the duration of the project’s life.”
Solar is a Smart Investment
According to Lensch, solar production facilities have proven to be a smart investment, providing long-term value for investors. “The federal government provides a 30-percent tax credit – and allows investors to use an accelerated depreciation schedule – and North Carolina provides an additional 35 percent as well,” says Lensch. “Savvy investors can get most of their money back in a very short amount of time.”
Argand efforts are reinforced through membership in and training workshops through industry and community organizations supporting clean energy, including the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA), N.C. GreenPower, the N.C. Solar Center, Charlotte Clean and Green, the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA). In addition, Argand remains a strong advocate of North Carolina’s renewable energy education programs, as well as other sustainability programs that develop new energy sources and industry jobs.
Utilizing its internal and external resources the company has worked on a number of high-profile projects throughout both North and South Carolina since its inception. For example, a crew from Argand recently completed construction on a 500-kilowatt (kW) solar-energy system for Glen Raven Inc. atop its Norlina, N.C.-based plant, which manufactures yarn for Sunbrella performance fabrics.
“Glen Raven was a customer purchase. It was a great project for them as they needed a brand new roof, and were able to take advantage of the tax credits and accelerated depreciation on the entire project,” details Lensch. “We were proud to work with North Carolina clean energy leaders like Glen Raven and Progress Energy to design and install this large solar system, which created jobs and contributes to energy independence for our state.”
Glowing Feedback from Clients
John Gant – Glen Raven’s manager of sustainable development, custom fabrics division – was quoted as saying the following about the company’s project with Argand: “Erik Lensch and his team at Argand earned our respect, confidence, and appreciation as they successfully commissioned the solar power installation at our Norlina facility in August 2011. The design and installation of the system are terrific, and we are making solar power today just as forecasted. Glen Raven hopes to have another opportunity to work together with Argand.”
Argand also recently completed a 250 kW system for the Service Thread distribution facility in Laurinburg, N.C. At that time the 250 kW system was the largest solar array in Scotland County, N.C.
Service Thread, who leased their rooftop to a third-party Argand investor, is selling the renewable energy and credits to the Progress Energy Carolinas SunSense Commercial Photovoltaic (PV) program. Under the innovative Argand model for solar ownership, Service Thread had no out of pocket expenses and converted their rooftop into an income generating resource. The lease income from the 250 kW system helped to finance an additional 11 kW system owned by Service Thread that will further leverage the solar investment to add an additional revenue stream for the company.
Lensch is especially proud of the 497 kW PV system that the company installed on the roof of J&S Wholesale and Rental in Asheboro, N.C. “The J&S system was the largest solar facility to date that we financed with outside investors,” he reveals.
Clean Edge, a research and publishing firm, recently published a report that solar power’s contribution could grow to encompass 10 percent of the nation’s power needs by 2025. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that under current domestic energy growth the U.S. is on track to become energy independent by 2020. Solar energy production is an important part of that independence, and through its recent projects in the Carolinas Argand is helping to affect vital change. Under Erik Lensch’s leadership, Argand Energy Solutions LLC has been doubling its growth for the past three years annually and was named the eighth fastest privately held company in Charlotte in 2011 (CBJ Fast 50 Awards, 12/8/2011). The company has become and will remain a key ally in expanding renewable energy to corporations, contractors and clients throughout its region.