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Local Solar Companies Feel the Effects of COVID-19

A message to the reader: 2020. A year that will never be forgotten. A year full of loss, hardships, and the unknown. A year like never before, where the whole world was united in one front – fighting a global pandemic. There is no doubt that this has been a tough year for everyone. Our deepest condolences to those who have suffered a loss. May 2021 be a step in the right direction for you, the nation, and the world.

THE SOLAR INDUSTRY AS A WHOLE

The solar industry ended 2019 with a bang, with a total of 13.2 GW of solar becoming operational. Industry growth was steady, and there were high hopes as to what the following years would bring. Going into 2020, no one could have anticipated the challenges that industries across the nation would face.

LOCAL SOLAR COMPANIES TAKE A HIT

By the end of the first quarter, the optimistic forecasts had tainted, and it was thought that years of progress would be negated. For smaller businesses, the unpredictable tide of the economy would shake the industry to its core. Larger corporations, however, would proceed to make 2020 a record year in terms of Gigawatts installed. “We weren’t big enough to weather the storm without substantial downsizing” reflects Power Production Management’s (PPMs) co-founder, Alex Khokhlov. “Budget adjustments had to take place, cutting all non-discretionary spending and leaving nothing but the skeleton.”

In an interview with PPM’s other co-founder, Jason Gonos reflects on the past year and all of the challenges the company has faced during these uncertain times. “One of the greatest difficulties of operating during the pandemic was definitely running a construction firm with most employees being remote. The lack of guidance from State and National leadership, and a lot of mixed messages from different groups. With all of those things combined, people went through a period where they just stopped buying things.” While the world was at home waiting out the storm, thousands of small businesses like PPM were trying to figure out how to stay afloat. While the typical seasonality of the solar industry reflects a slow first quarter, “the doubling of the natural slowdown and a global shutdown created turbulence. We weren’t sure if it was naturally slowing or how bad things were going to get” (Khokhlov).

A BLESSING AND A CURSE

Things started to take a slight turn for the better when the Paycheck Protection Program was distributed in April of 2020. The Paycheck Protection Program, PPP for short, was a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan that was created to help small businesses keep their workforce employed during the Coronavirus. Although the funding was not a cure-all, it did aid in PPM’s ability to focus on fine-tuning their new way of operating, rather than scrambling to make payroll. “Before, we were flying blind. Because we were previously all working in the office alongside each other, we may have not had all systems in place for effective communication and to hold each other accountable” (Khokhlov). “The Pandemic really forced us to improve and become more efficient. We are very grateful that we could take a bad situation and turn it into an opportunity” (Gonos).

Although there were many road bumps and obstacles along the way, 2020 was a year of growth and development for Power Production Management. With a strong sense of collaboration and determination, owners Alex and Jason alongside their team of dedicated employees were able to come out of these troubling times stronger than before. “2020 was the first year that we haven’t substantially grown, in fact, we had downsized by as much as 40%. And yet, after regearing our business and improving our efficiencies, we have learned to be more nimble, and work harder and smarter during the time of crisis” (Khokhlov).

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