Green Solar Technologies is a Scam
Note: this is an outline I intended to publish much later. However, I was recently contacted by a Green Solar Technologies “customer” requesting help because they ARE being threatened with a $10k lawsuit for failure to proceed with their solar contract. My intent in publishing this rough copy is to allow potential GST customers information in considering doing business with this company.
“Solar is really simple… so why not harness it to create your own power? It almost always make you money in the long run, if not in the short run” – Edward Harner, COO Green Solar Technologies. 100.7 The Point Interview. 2018. A Friday Afternoon.
In late October of 2017, I got a phone call from Green Solar Technologies (GST) asking if I wanted to install solar for an attractive amount of money. I told them I did not do installs in Mississippi, as I was not a registered contractor. But they told me they were a registered contractor, that they handled the sales, that the customers were already under contract and had long term financing. I confirmed they were a state licensed contractor and they confirmed I had the NABCEP certification necessary to sign-off on projects under the TVA buy-all, sell-all program. I agreed to evaluate their job sites for technical feasibility and help them find local installers.
[GST contractor registration Mississippi]
Actually, I thought that at what they were paying, I could make a side business out of referring local projects to my NABCEP continuing education students, as many of my students are located in “under developed” solar markets, which GST seems to be targeting. I proposed taking 10% off the top of the contract and shooting off a few emails to my installer network, and I received positive responses from my installer network. Clearly, there was nothing wrong with GST’s labor budget. I also called one of my early graduates, a seasoned pro in a well developed market, to ask what they thought of the GST business model.
“They have a lot of money”
It’s site evaluation day. I love the fact that I am getting paid for a site evaluation. Actually, in my course programs, I recommend charging for site evaluations as a best practice – and I am being paid for a site evaluation! Solar design is woefully ignored in this turnkey industry. It reminds me of the Netflix show Grand Designs – a little bit of solar planning can result in a stunning projects for a fraction of project cost. But my role today is simply to evaluate a “net metered” solar array. Snap a few photos of the roof and electric service panel and gather the information necessary for a system design and project permitting. The odd thing is that net-metering in MS is the opposite of what most USA customers would think: it refers to instantaneous purchase at avoided cost. This is often a worse economic deal than TVA’s below retail buy-all sell-all program, but the customer insists they want to use the array during a blackout and only want “one bill”. The buy-all, sell-all program is explicitly two bills. OK, well the customer also air conditions his garage (keep in mind this is Mississippi), so let’s proceed with a net-metered connection. With the first time project bonus GST is paying me, I figure I can upgrade the client’s fire hazard electric service panel with a new generator interlock panel and leave him better prepared for a blackout. Being an “end of the distribution circuit, rural area” customer, he loses power 4x per year. Just to be safe that the customer changes his mind about net-metering, I file a TVA buy-all, sell-all application (a program which the TVA services manager later told me was written explicitly to discourage net-metering). After all, that was really what my NABCEP certification was useful for. Later, much later, and at a cost that I fully covered for the customer, he decided he did not in fact want a “net-metered” connection as originally sold but instead would move forward with the buy-all sell-all application I filed.
Green Solar Technologies Partners Up With Top Leading Banks To Offer Unique 20 Year Term Financing With Low Interest rate
“Homeowners should not have to pay thousands of dollars each month when they can pay as little as a few hundred dollars instead over a long term” says Nicki Zvik, president of Green Solar Technologies.The company was awarded the Foundation Finance Award for excellence in the financing of regional customer installations. Foundation Finance selected the organization as one of its elite partners for the fiscal quarter, citing the company’s ability to finance more customers than its peers. The sheer volume of financing, coupled with 5 star Yelp reviews, has catapulted Green Solar Technologies to the upper echelon of the rapidly growing market.
Unlike other solar panel companies, they do not shut the door on customers with bad or mediocre credit. They have partnered up with banks to offer loans to its customers through a standardized pace program. “This program is somewhat new but continues to grow every day because financing is crucial to the future of the solar panel industry,” says Nicki Zvik.
Besides good financing, the company is known for other highly rated attributes. The company installs solar panels to customers in many states – not just California. They now have offices in Orange County and Riverside. Each month they continue to expand their territories. They plan to add ten more locations by the end of 2016. The company works with only the leading solar panel manufacturers including Solarworld, Enphase, Solaredge and many others. Green Solar Technologies is definitely a company you want to check out today.”
The thing that struck me as odd about site evaluation day, was that another site evaluator showed up to site too. Green Solar Technologies’ project manager would later claim it was a full-time employee of GST, in fact, their “responsible managing employee” who was legally obligate to work full time for the company. But on that day, after he called somebody, he left.
I also had issues with my contract.
I asked the project manager for missing details such as corporate structure and progress payment schedules, as also to remove certain details specific to compensation disputes, contractor clauses which did not fit my particular project role as a non-contractor, as well as a request to settle disputes within the state that the business was actually being conducted within. I also asked them to remove other clauses which I cannot disclose. This got me connected with General Manager John Muscari, although his name is not listed on the incorporation documents with the State of California.
In fact, they never emailed back my signed contract and the name of their company was not specifically clear. While GST was referred to as Contractor throughout the contract, was I dealing with Green Solar Technologies Mississppi, Inc. – a state licensed contractor capable on bidding on project work? Or was I in contract with Green Solar Technologies Inc, a DBA out of California managed by Edward Harner? It seems that not signing business documents is a standard practice at GST.
“The pioneer of the nationwide model”
First off, let me just say that Mississippi has a dumpster fire of solar policy, but perhaps more than any other state in the country, it is entitled to it.
Did you know Mississippi has the first electrical cooperative in the country? I had no clue! The Corinth Experiement served as the pilot project to the Tennessee Valley Authority, and within a decade of the pilot, rural grid connections in Mississippi increased 600%. The end result is a network of 27 different fiefdoms within Mississippi, some having fewer than five customers per mile of distributed power line. Perhaps some consolidation is due. But just a true, anything you might think about grid operator revenue loss due to solar is of particular concern in this region. What would happen if they saw 80% of their customers drop offline within ten years? Essentially, the entire system would have to be replaced with solar micro-grids, which is where Community.Solar is heading as a company. At the same time, I think these facts entitle grid operators to having the worst consumer solar policy in the nation. The TVA, for example, despite being a regulated, publicly owned monopoly, only provides instantaneous PURPA buyback for net-metered solar arrays, at less than three cents per kilowatt hour. The TVA pay utility-scale solar developers more for congested, centralized solar power than they pay their own customers delivered to the point-of-use! In January 2018, when arguing with the TVA on why they should allow my net-metered GST customer to proceed with his net-metered solar interconnection, the TVA net-metered program manager told me they only had 35 net-metered solar arrays in the entire TVA! And despite telling the Mississippi Public Service Commission their TVA electric power cooperatives have net-metering procedures in place, they don’t! And the EPCs are allowed to charge solar discriminatory meter fees on top of the avoided cost buyback, and some do! And the southern part of the state is just slightly better! I thought utility monopolies were supposed to grant some consumer protections, but solar consumers get better rate options on deregulated markets such as Texas, where there are zero net-metering laws on the books!
“According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Mississippi’s residential electricity rates increased, on average, by 1.47 percent annually between 2006 and 2016.” A Consumer’s Guide to Solar Power, ATTORNEY GENERAL JIM HOOD STATE OF MISSISSIPPI Mississippi Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division
Much of my next few months of Green Solar Technologies (GST) contract work was spent arguing with the TVA on why they really needed to get their net-metering policies in order. On the other hand, I was faced with an increasing number of GST customers asking me about project economics, like, right when I was getting out of my car. My NABCEP code of ethics obligates me to answer such questions truthfully, and uniformly, those customers would not proceed with their projects. I asked a colleague at a national solar finance company what they would consider to be a fair rate escalator for modeling solar power, as some GST customers mentioned a rate of 7% per year. My own models had shown that US electricity actually ticks a hair below inflation, which fits with our very low electric rates compared to other developed nations. He mentioned they do not fund contractors who model a rate escalator above 4%. Keep in mind most conservative solar economic models peg performance degradation at -½% per year. My first GST customer decided he did not like Mississippi net-metering so well afterall, and I paid to convert his array to the TVA below retail buy-all, sell-all program – essentially a guarantee his loan would be underwater, but he was sinking to the bottom of his bank account at that point, having failed to implement any of my recommended load shifting measures to manage his site electric use. GST did not appear to have any NABCEP PV Installers on staff, but as evidenced by their solar reviews profile, they were a SEIA member and similarly bound by a code of ethics. I found myself having to sandbag larger projects, as it was obvious GST was not providing accurate economic analysis to their customers. In fact, they were instructing me not to do so.
“It’s like a big family. I started here a year ago as an opener, and now I’m a six figure guy… nothing but net profit”
GST claims to have been started in 1987 but the first time that I can find co-founders Nikki’s Vic and Shay Zavar work together was in 2005, about the same time there now COO Edward Lai Harner was issued a CPA certificate from the state of California. Savar founded a contracting company called American Home Remodeling and zvick founded a separate contractor company called Y & Z Construction. it is true that a separate company called American Solar and Home Remodeling was founded in 1987 by Jerry Sergey Goldman, which also listed a DBA as American Solar Solutions. Perhaps more confusing, Y & Z Construction did not file Articles of Incorporation with the state until 2010, this time signed by Shay Yavor. Zvic and Yavor split the corporate titles, and issued to new company names: American Solar Solutions and Green Solar Technologies.
Slthough I have not found a record of any agreement between Goldman Victoria bar wear one party acquired the other’s company, firmly establishing green solar technologies timeline back to 1987 as they claim, I believe it is reasonable to assume some kind of relationship formal or informal was agreed upon by all parties at some point in time, based on a track record of similar Behavior by their respective company founders. In 1995 Terry John Madison Construction Corporation was cited for aiding and abetting unlicensed construction work in California, with Goldman as CEO/President. A similar penalty was issued against Goldman’s company remodelex in 2003. Y & Z construction was cited in 2007 for among other things, misleading, false, and deceptive advertising to induce contract. In 2013, a contractor filing by you’ve are listed yavar as a hundred percent owner of green Solar Technologies, but named Goldman as the responsible managing officer. later that year business documents were amended to list Goldman as a 20% owner of the company, Yavar as its secretary / treasurer, and Zvik as President.
The solar industry is like the grocery business, and that it is incredibly difficult to ramp up Nationwide expansion. Unlike say our neighbor to the South Mexico, who has a national electric company with a national net-metering policy in place, regulation of electricity pricing in the USA is left to each individual state. How each state divvies up its electric grid is a crap shoot. Some States team up with others to establish large are regulatory Frameworks, other states isolate themselves from the rest of the grid. Within those Frameworks each state can choose to open its Market to multiple competitors or Grant power companies a monopoly in a given region, and often you will find different policies for municipalities versus the rural regions outside the city. States may or may not regulate their contractors and electricians, and may have different regulations for residential versus commercial as well as investor-owned utilities or public Electric cooperatives. cities themselves may have different permit procedures and classifications independent of the grid operators. this Patchwork quilt has a historical basis in that we were the first country to develop the electric grid, with other countries coming later to the game to develop a more streamlined process.
Powerplants of all fuel types require a tremendous amount of start up capital to develop. It is not uncommon for a 30-year bond to be issued to spread out that Capital cost over a long period of time amongst a large general population, guaranteed to be recovered as a rider on your electric bill. Rooftop solar, a small power plant, is no exception. It is not well known that the 30% solar tax credit at the corporate level, is part of a larger more comprehensive tax credit called the energy investment tax credit. Note that renewables are not part of that title. when I work in oil before getting into solar, the refinery expansion Mega project I worked on received the energy investment tax credit, I’ll be at 10% rather than solar’s 30%. when the solar tax credit sun sets in 2022, the corporate tax credit does not phase out but rather drops down to that 10% level. Up until green Solar Technologies started sending leads my way, I thought of solar as a millionaires game. Our import tariffs policies cross partisan lines and date back to 2014. State and local incentives if available do result in a lower system cost to the system owner, but do have a subsidy effect of raising total project cost. Treating solar as something special can substantially raise development and permitting costs. But if the end user is getting a deal that’s too good to be true, the developer has little incentive to lower there project development fees. This creates an economy where only those who pay substantial federal taxes can participate in solar array ownership. It is not a Level Playing Field that can be enjoyed by all, which would require not only in elimination of all renewable subsidies, but also the end to a long-standing tradition that allows fossil-fuel based business models to profit while dumping large quantities of carbon emissions into the atmosphere for free.
A handful of solar Developers have tried to cross the Rockies from California, or Appalachians from the East Coast, and most have flamed out in spectacular fashion. SunEdison, Akeena Solar, American Solar Direct, Sungevity have all left customers uncertain of where they’re solar leases stand after bankruptcy proceedings. Many industry insiders thought SolarCity was on that path to until they were bailed out by rich uncle Tesla.
Still, the question of whether big solar Will trump small solar remains in play. As solar power world senior editor Kelsey Miss printer rights in her March 2018 article https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2018/03/online-selling-growing-pains-solar-installers/ Some smaller installation companies don’t have the resources to have an internet savvy employee work on search engine and social media optimization full-time. This has resulted in Nationwide sales companies filling that energysage is a market leader in that niche. In the article CEO Vikram Aggarwal said the site had about five million U.S. visitors in 2017, with that number expected to double this year.
Zvik hits the fan
Green Solar Technologies is a master of social media. Their current CEO Edward Harner made the news for writing Congress in support of solar import tariffs, stating that the solar energy industry Association and most solar installers were wrong to oppose the policy. Media savviness runs in the family it seems. His brother-in-law Patel is one of the four listed cofounders of Huffington Post / BuzzFeed along with Arianna Huffington and Stephen Bannon. my contract with them prevents me from disclosing their marketing methods, but internet searches easily reveal they are actively engaged in social media management.
Well they do not appear on solarpowerworld top 500 contractor list for 2017, they rank umber 3 on popular lead generation website solar reviews. Com where they jaw dropping 4. 83 out of 5 star rating. They are listed as a seia and ASCS member, but their name does not appear in those directories. They have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau 24 positive and five negative reviews. Similar results can be found on evaluation platform such as Yelp, glass door, and canoe kunuduru. They routinely post job openings for social media content writers and optimizers, as well as one for a legal assistant. They advertise themselves as the creator of the Nationwide solar Contracting model.
We are extremely excited about receiving this certification from SolarWorld,” said Edward Harner, COO at Green Solar Technologies. “Very few installers are able to meet the quality installation standards required by SolarWorld, and being awarded the Platinum Installer status is quite an honor. To have one of the biggest panel manufacturers in the world certify us should matter a great deal to our customers because it means that SolarWorld trusts us to be good brand ambassadors. We feel that we are aligned with SolarWorld in its efforts to provide the best product to customers; Green Solar’s product is the overall project experience, from customer engagement all the way to the actual installation of the solar,” Harner continued. “Ever since we began as a business, we’ve aligned with only the best equipment manufacturers. SolarWorld has always been our partner because it makes the best panels in the world and, almost as important, it makes its panels right here in the U.S. in Oregon. We just feel more confident with an American-made panel because we can trust in its quality-control standards,” Harner said.
“The solar industry has changed drastically in the past few years. There are more and more small mom-and-pop operations doing solar, and it’s very important for customers to do their due diligence on the installer. Some of these people have no experience installing solar; they’re just electricians!” Harner said. “We’ve been doing solar for a long time and have always required extensive training for all of our installers. We feel confident that we are the best solar installers in the country. Period.”