Katy Nesbitt
The La Grande Observer

ENTERPRISE — A local business has made the list of top solar contractors in the United States.

Enterprise Electric and Rental was ranked the eighth largest solar installer in Oregon and 488th out of 500 U.S. solar installers by Solar Power World magazine July 25. Akin to what solar contractors across the country are experiencing, Jared Hillock said his family’s business is in high demand.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Hillock said, Enterprise Electric dabbled in solar, but most of its customers wanted off-grid arrays. He said the company began to focus on solar installations around 2008. Customers aware of state and federal tax incentives wanted “on-grid” systems that send excess power to the power grid, and the technology and equipment were vastly improved over the designs of 30-40 years ago.

Hillock said because of solar installations, Enterprise Electric is a growing company.

“Solar is what has allowed us to grow (along with) all of the construction in the county,” Hillock said.

This summer, the company’s employee roster hit 10. Hillock said that is the most they’ve ever had. A new shop and store will be built on Hurricane Creek Road next to Grain Growers in the coming year, he said, and the company will be filling a rental and sales position and hiring a bookkeeper to help manage the 10,000-square-foot shop and rental store.

The new shop will be a “net zero” building — a building with zero net energy consumption.

“As far as we know, it’s the first building in the county that will be built with the purpose of being net zero,” Hillock said.

The shop will have extra insulation, heat pumps and LED lighting.

“We’ll do everything we can to reduce our load, including solar panels to offset the whole building’s energy use,” he added.

Hillock said the system Enterprise Electric installed at the Enterprise Community Church is very close to being net zero and his crew is working on a new home that will be net zero.

The Top Solar Contractors list is produced annually by Solar Power World to recognize U.S. solar contractors in the utility, commercial and residential markets.

According to Solar Power World, the U.S. solar market installed more than 14,700 megawatts of solar in 2016, nearly doubling the capacity installed in 2015. For the first time ever, solar was ranked as the No. 1 source of new electric generating capacity additions brought online throughout the year.

Solar World’s press release said GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association predict the cumulative U.S. solar market to nearly triple in size over the next five years. By 2022, it is estimated that more than 18 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity will be installed annually, and Enterprise Electric and Rental will continue to be a major player in adding solar to the grid.

Enterprise Electric and Rental installed 210 kilowatts of solar in 2016. Since its founding in 1970, the company has installed 1.55 megawatts of solar.

“Enterprise Electric is dedicated to the idea of energy conservation,” Hillock said. “Through solar power, lighting energy-efficiency retrofits and hydro-electric, we have been able to keep Wallowa County at the forefront of energy conservation.”