Solar Provider Group

Canadian craftsmanship and global experience merge for turnkey solar delivery
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
James Logan

Toronto-based Solar Provider Group (SPG) Canada, an affiliate of the global Solar Provider Group with operations across the U.S., U.K., Germany and Canada, is delivering turnkey commercial, industrial and large-scale solar solutions led by two industry experts: Christian Wentzel and Sebastian Seyfarth, co-founders and co-owners of the company. The company has emerged as Profit 500’s fastest-growing company in the City of Toronto and No. 8 in the market in all of Canada.

SPG’s staff has a combined experience of more than 50 megawatts of installed solar capacity and more than 200 installations to date. The company’s internationally successful business model not only enhances the ROI of property owners, but also helps to reduce Ontario’s carbon footprint.

With a team of 65-plus engineers, project managers, site supervisors and construction laborers, SPG delivers the full scope of solar projects: feasibility studies, detailed site assessments, engineering, procurement, construction, financing, ownership, operation and maintenance.

“We own and manage the plant post construction,” explains Seyfarth. “Our business model is different from most. Many U.S. and Canadian companies focus on just engineering, development and construction or financing — we’re a one-stop shop. This allows us to really control the quality of the installation and the timeline, which is important in this new industry.”

Seyfarth says SPG’s turnkey approach has been the differentiating factor for the company that built itself from the ground up with little to no contacts starting out. “We control the process and minimize headaches for our customers,” he says. “This is more capital intensive and difficult to manage, but as a result we have happier clients.”

Germany to Canada

Born out of the innovative European solar market, SPG formed in 2009 when Wentzel and Seyfarth saw an opportunity they couldn’t resist in Ontario. Having been friends in teenage years, the pair reconnected in the late 2000s. “We actually first started talking about the idea at Oktoberfest in Munich,” recounts Wentzel. “Then, solar was an up-and-coming industry across Europe, but there was a European-style solar program budding in Ontario”

Seyfarth’s background developing and building massive solar projects in Spain and Wentzel’s background as an energy investment banker and investor focused on large multinational transactions led the pair to give up their lives in Germany and the U.K. and make moves to Toronto to investigate the burgeoning Canadian solar market. “I quit my job and we came to Toronto to feel out the market —that was at the beginning of 2010,” says Seyfarth. “Then the solar market was still small and we saw the opportunity to bring our knowledge.”

Starting out was no small task. Neither Seyfarth nor Wentzel has strong industry connections in Ontario. “We knew everything about solar, but needed to make contacts,” says Wentzel. “The first two or three years were tough to convince people they should go with us versus a $500 million electrical contractor that’s been in the market for 20 years.”

But luckily, experience and the right approach combined to get SPG’s first list of contacts and leads. Today, the company has a Toronto office and a satellite in Los Angeles. “We also do projects in the UK and other parts of Europe as well,” adds Seyfarth. “We’re currently completing the largest solar project in the U.K.”

In most instances, SPG serves as the developer, installer and manager of solar commercial and industrial solar projects. “The split is about 70 percent commercial and 30 percent industrial,” says Wentzel. “We currently have industrial and commercial solar projects underway in Los Angeles and we are expanding outside of California, into the Northeast and Midwest.”

Environmentally and financially smart

SPG is skilled in managing the often complex solar rebate and incentive programs offered by the government to get these projects off the ground, such as the Ontario Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) Solar PV Program, one of the first comprehensive guaranteed pricing structures for renewable electricity production. “The FIT program allows property owners within Ontario to sell 100 percent of the power generated from solar installations back to the Independent Electricity System Operator [IESO] in a 20-year fixed-price contract,” says Wentzel.

Wentzel says time is of the essence though. “The IESO has structured this program such that the fixed price per kilowatt-hour will decline over time. The sooner an application is submitted for a solar project, the higher a project’s potential value,” he explains.

SPG takes the steps to assess the structural integrity of the roof system and then decides if the client prefers to own the project or lease the roof to SPG. “We then start the permitting process with the Ontario Power Authority and the electricity company to secure a 20-year government contract,” adds Wentzel.

In fall 2015, the Ontario government also announced it would commit to procuring an additional 241-plus megawatts of renewable energy. Over the next four years, there will be another 150 megawatts allotted annually to solar projects.

This means more room for growth in the marketplace for companies like SPG. “We’ve already experienced more than 5,000 percent growth in the last five years and there’s more to come,” says Seyfarth. As the true one-stop shop and complete source for solar PV project execution and delivery, Solar Provider Group is bringing the energy savings home to Ontario and beyond.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Aird & Berlis LLP
Audio Video Metals Inc.