HERE COMES THE SUN
After five years of helping individuals and businesses in their native country decrease electric bills by installing solar panels, the French husband-and-wife team behind Brighten Solar Co. found the perfect place to expand across the Atlantic: Santa Barbara.
Originally founded in 2008 by Jeremy Favier and Marine Schumann in Montelimar, France, Brighten Solar has for the past five years assisted Santa Barbara residents and businesses in determining which solar panel systems best fit their energy needs.
To find the best fit, Brighten Solar observes how much energy a facility consumes and uses software to illustrate how much energy the panels will produce, how much money the panels will save, and when the business will break even on the installation costs.
Mr. Favier, Brighten’s chief operating officer, told the News-Press that the company’s beginnings in France provided the perfect preparation for expanding on California’s Central Coast.
Recalling the company’s initial expansion efforts, Mr. Favier explained that when he and his wife conducted market research in California, they noticed that solar panels were numerous in San Francisco but almost nonexistent in Santa Barbara.
When he asked about that, local architects responded with the misconceptions that installation wasn’t financially feasible and that the city’s rooftops wouldn’t allow it.
“A lot of people didn’t know that it was possible to install solar panels on Spanish tiles,” he said.
Many buildings in France have Spanish-tiled roofs, which gave Brighten Solar a “competitive advantage” when entering the solar panel industry in Santa Barbara, he sad.
He and Ms. Schumann were initially attracted to the business because both are “strong believers” that changes in energy must be made to reduce consumption and combat climate change, Mr. Favier said.
“We need to. There is no choice,” he said.
Though he received a master’s degree in engineering from Georgia Tech, Mr. Favier did not learn about solar energy during his education because solar panels are a relatively new industry. Once he and his wife decided to venture into the business, both needed significant training and certification courses.
Mr. Favier manages the company’s sales team and oversees project managers, but in the early days he put his engineering background to use by personally installing panels. Ms. Schumann holds a master’s degree in marketing from Bentley University and handles much of the company’s marketing and business aspects.
“It’s very complimentary,” Mr. Favier said.
Brighten Solar’s current focus is expanding in Santa Barbara, and the primary challenge it currently faces is finding local individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to perform solar installation.
“Solar installation has not been around a long time, so a lot of people don’t have qualifications or experience in that field,” Mr. Favier said.
Local businesses that have had Brighten Solar panels installed include Santa Barbara Airbus and Deckers Brands. Santa Barbara Airbus has transitioned to 70 percent solar energy, and Deckers is at 30 percent.
This summer, Brighten Solar will install solar panels on the roofs of the Dunn School in Santa Ynez, student housing facilities at UCSB, and the Starbucks in Orcutt.