Welcome back to our series of Partner Profiles. This month we spoke with Luke Shantz, President of Arcadian Projects, about how they got started, their work in solar PV construction, and what the future holds.
Let’s go back to the beginning. How did Arcadian Projects get started?
We got started in 2008. My partner and I were both in multi-trade, working with large general contractors. When things started slowing down we decided to get into a new sector.
Renewable energy, and solar photovoltaics (PV) seemed like a good fit. The government was rolling out the [FIT and microFIT] programs at the time, so we thought, “Why not see where this leads us?” We started researching and found there was a surge of work from people interested. That’s how we got started doing PV.
So, Solar PV was really the driver behind the initial growth of Arcadian Projects. How did you build the business from there?
By 2010 we were finding there was lots of work, and we were getting traction with happy customers, so we brought in more people and split into a couple of crews. As the government programs were coming and going we looked at diversifying into things like lighting, power analysis, and energy management. We targeted high consumers like manufacturing plants, helping them get their consumption down. That was our first step to diversifying, keeping our electricians busy.
Since then we have also taken our trades people and made them their own profit centre, allowing them to get back into installation and repair. Originally, they were the labour force for our renewable energy groups, but now they have formed their own group and get their own work. It’s snowballed over the last two years, allowing us to do more millwrighting and service work.
Now we think of ourselves as a multi-trade service provider, with a strong energy focus. That’s where most of our services are, and where our customer base is.
Why do you see the energy and renewables sector as important right now?
It’s a growing and developing industry, and it’s not going away. As much as the naysayers would have you believe the opposite, renewable energy and conservation are here to stay and growing globally.
We want to be a part of that sector and grow and adapt with it as new technologies and changes come to the industry. That could be service, consulting, trade labour, or execution for projects.
What do you think the future of Solar PV looks like?
Net Metering is going to be the first step, but I don’t think it will be long before storage is a viable option for consumers and small businesses. I think it’s just around the corner. Whatever happens, we want to be here and be ready with the right technology, skill sets, and training to be a leader in that industry.
What sets Arcadian apart and makes you unique among contractors?
Start by looking at Arcadian with a wider lens than simply “contractor.” There aren’t many contractors who carry a consulting team and a design team. We are well versed in energy as well as construction. This allows us to pursue new customers, with new needs, that others may not be aware of yet. The service contractors out there are only dealing with existing equipment. We’re approaching customers from an education base first, then the contracting side.
The future for us is also Operations and Maintenance contracts. As the new PV installation opportunities slow down, the maintaining of existing systems will increase, those of us on the contracting side need to be prepared to take on the service and maintenance demands. We have a group working on that now, with contracts including the City of Kitchener, all the projects owned by the Region of Waterloo, as well as support for several large project developers. We’re expanding, looking to grow that side of the business next.
In the beginning stages, we were pursuing contracts, but as FIT program rules changed, it became more difficult and soon consumed a lot of our resources for a small chance of securing a contract for our customers. So now we aren’t a developer, and don’t pretend to be. We’re a builder and contractor. However, we do have some key customers who want to work with us to develop solar systems, and have brought projects to the table.
Tell us about the relationship with CED Co-op. We’re one of those groups that comes to the table with opportunities to work together.
Since we’re just down the road in Baden, we cross paths all the time. Common customers, common relationships just popped up. We had some customers interested in solar contracts, and knew that CED Co-op would be a good fit to be able to support those contracts.
What is CED Co-op bringing to the table for your customers?
The co-op brought confidence to the customers. Local people from the same circles, same region, who brought a lot of experience and showed success in solar development. CED Co-op was an existing co-op with a good investment plan, well laid out and well thought out. It was an easy sell to our customer base.
We have five viable projects we hope to make work with our customers and the co-op. We have some trusting customers that really want to be a part of it. The small group we have is dedicated, it’s really exciting.
We are just as excited, Luke. Thank you for trusting CED Co-op as a partner to help your customers benefit from clean, green energy.
Is there anything else our members should know about business at Arcadian Projects?
For us, relationships are key. We team up with partners and build relationships with customers. It’s important that we have been able to build partnerships in the industries we work in. That’s where the business comes from.
We have a really diverse team here that brings lots to the table. Each person comes from a different background and brings something special to the company. Together we all make Arcadian what it is.
Thanks to Luke Shantz for sharing what makes Arcadian Projects unique in the Solar PV industry, and your excitement to connect customers to CED Co-op so we can all benefit from bringing more renewable energy to Ontario.