Running on Sunshine – Harnessing a Passion for Solar Sustainability
Long before we were dealing with serious climate change concerns and encouraging industries to “go green” around the globe, there was solar power — converting energy from sunlight into electricity, directly through the use of photovoltaics, indirectly using concentrated solar power, or a combination of both. Axium Solar specializes in the photovoltaic method, designing and constructing high-quality systems to make the world both affordable and sustainable.
Texas-based, family-owned Axium Solar has devoted itself to creating quality renewable energy solutions readily accessible to consumers since 2006, when founder Bob Kendrick — owner of Axium Electric, an energy management business — constructed his own eco-friendly home, complete with a solar-panel system. The construction intrigued his neighbors enough that Bob not only educated them about renewable energy, but extended his own company into the solar services business.
“Out of a concern for the future of our kids and environmental climate change, and being good stewards of the environment and our world, Bob decided he wanted to go solar at his house and make it a net zero application,” says Axium Vice President and General Manager Eric Cotney. “He started researching the technology and decided he could do it himself, making his house run off renewable energy with a combination of wind and solar, while at same time getting into the solar business.”
These days, Axium employs a team of skilled renewable energy experts to work with owners, architects, engineers, and contractors during every phase of a project, from design through construction, encouraging consumers to exercise their ability to affect the future of this planet positively, emphasizing that “choices can change things.”
The early years saw Axium focused on the residential market, with quite a bit of servicing of those who wanted to go solar at their own homes, says Cotney.
“We then bid on and won a big commercial deal, and we gradually started transitioning our business to the commercial market. We still did both residential and commercial, but had a lot of success in the commercial side, making a name for ourselves in Dallas as one of the go-to companies for anyone wanting to go solar.”
The company now works exclusively in the commercial, industrial and utility markets, focusing on rooftop projects, carport systems, ground mounts, and also utility-scale solar farms. Axium performs projects turnkey and also as a subcontractor for the electrical scope. Axium will finish this year at 100MW of installed solar capacity, a significant milestone for the company.
“We do pretty much every single application that’s out there for solar, including covered parking and canopies,” says Owner and Construction Manager Derik Kendrick. “That’s our focus in the renewable industry.” Axium also works to align itself with other green industries, creating partnerships to help share and build awareness of clean, renewable energy.
“We prefer to work with customers from the very beginning of a project to help them design, doing all the engineering, procurement and construction,” says Cotney, “and then we also have a dedicated service team that allows us to continue the relationship with the customer and follow up with any necessary service.”
Mainly operating in the state of Texas, Axium is now branching out to other states, including Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana. But no matter where they provide their services, their dedication and passion for the industry remains paramount.
“The main thing is that we’re focused on helping as many people go solar as possible,” says Vanessa Green, Director of Operations. “We’re all very driven and passionate, and really care about what we do, and it reflects in the work that the rest of the team performs as well. Even the guys in the field are passionate about what they do. They work long hours sometimes, but they do it because they know that the end goal is good for the environment and everybody all around.”
Axium also prides itself on its diversity initiative, employing ten deaf workers in a number of different positions, starting three years ago with the hiring of the deaf nephew of a 10-year employee.
“Since then, we’ve hired his best friends, and then their friends and now we have them spread out all over different jobs, including two service guys, one in the north and one in south Texas,” says Kendrick. “We have key positions for deaf people in different types of jobs, and lots of employees have learned sign language. It’s become a whole deal within the company, like a little community all working together.”
Kendrick himself has become fluent enough that he can communicate with all the teams, running and managing the crews. “We’ve really adopted this culture,” adds Green.
“It’s a real personal commitment of his, doing what it takes to make this happen,” says Cotney. He adds that many employees have also taken classes on their own, learning enough sign language to communicate with deaf workers on the job. Last year Axium received the Medium Business Lex Friedman award, for businesses that hire disabled workers.
Axium’s growth and success in the industry as a whole definitely lies partly in its strong, unified workforce, where employees are devoted and dedicated to the product and its benefits.
“We’re also unique in the marketplace, because Axium has chosen to retain a large labor force,” says Cotney. “Whenever someone hires us, the work is predominantly done by Axium Solar employees. A lot of companies are sales companies or engineering and design companies, and they hire subcontractors. We feel we’re unique in that we do all of it.”
This means the quality of an installation is in the control of Axium itself, as it’s their team doing the work. Cotney stresses that not a lot of people in Texas have commercial and industrial experience that Axium has, in terms of number and scope of projects. “We’re unrivalled in terms of our experience and reputation out there.”
They’re also distinct in their ability to maintain company unity and communication, according to Green. “Often, as companies become corporate, they become isolated in their departments and don’t communicate with each other, and we’re not like that,” she says. “We’re one big team. If there’s a question about something we put our heads together and make ourselves stronger as a team. We look at all different angles of a project and what a client might want, to create cost and installation efficiency so we can meet our deadlines.”
As climate concerns continue to escalate, so will the need and desire for solar energy as a main source of power, but this, says Cotney, wasn’t always the case, especially in the beginning.
“It’s been great to see the growth in the solar industry. Initially, I was skeptical that we’d see the kind of growth that we’ve seen. It’s been really refreshing and exciting to be a part of the industry as a whole and see the widespread adoption that’s taking place,” he shares.
“Solar as experienced a significant drop in price and increase in efficiency over the past few years,” continues Cotney. “A dollar spent on solar technology goes much further today than it did even three years ago. When I started in the industry, many customers were willing to invest in solar even if the return on investment wasn’t necessarily that attractive. They were predominantly interested in investing in the future both as a hedge against rising energy costs and doing their part to create a better environment,” he explains.
“Now we still have the responsibility piece, but we’re also making financial sense, and we’re seeing a lot more adoption because it’s a viable supplementary technology that we’ve been doing — it’s even becoming a preferred technology in many cases. I never saw this coming to the scale it is now, but it’s exciting to be a part of this industry!”
Axium also maintains its commitment to taking care of customers by staying true to its word right from the start, even if that means a possible financial loss.
“Our reputation and our integrity in the marketplace is the most important thing, and we’re going to do the right thing for the customer,” says Cotney. “We often have that discussion with customers to make sure their expectations of the technology and market conditions line up with reality. We don’t want to do something that’s going to give Axium or the industry as a whole a bad name. This company is committed to that and I couldn’t work here if that wasn’t a core value.”
Axium also works hard to maintain its impeccable culture of safety, by enforcing higher than average qualifications and minimum requirements for all employees.
“Every day we have safety group chats with different topics across the company as a whole,” says Green. “We reinforce safety for experienced employees, and also teach new guys to stay safe and look out for each other along the way.”
The future continues to look bright for all environmentally responsible industries, and Cotney says that Axium has been riding that wave. “We’ve both created and had a lot of opportunities come our way that we’ve capitalized on. Plus, doing the right thing for people and doing a good job has made us the preferred partner for many of our existing customers. We seize the opportunities that come our way and capitalize on them,” he says. “That’s why we’ve grown. We’re seeing some markets open up for us that we don’t normally chase, and we see ourselves growing toward even larger projects and other markets in years to come.”
Knowing that your product is not only helping your customers, but making the world a better, cleaner place for future generations is a noble goal that ensures every Axium employee is proud to display the company name.