There’s a growing movement among towns and businesses that are realizing that they can benefit from solar energy. For the greater energy requirements of towns and businesses those few panels you tend to see in a residential installation turn into a utility-grade installation of thousands of panels, depending on the need.
While many solar installation companies focus only on residential clients, Sunbelt Environmental Services, Inc. (Sunbelt) has expanded its services to include large-scale utility-grade installations.
Founded by Lee Schaefer and Tom Underwood, Sunbelt Environmental Services, Inc. began as a waste broker, going to companies and assessing and classifying waste according to toxicity, flammability and other hazardous factors, and then removing that waste for disposal. While the company is still involved in hazardous waste hauling, many more services were added over the years, and a new division began four years ago with the addition of a solar installation division.
Karen Schaefer expressed early interest in getting into the solar arena but Solar Managers Travis Fultz and Steve Schaefer and former Solar Manager Ken Clem were instrumental in getting the company into solar and in the short time the division has existed, sales have jumped from $70,000 in the first two years to over $1.5 million in the last two years.
Sunbelt began with residential solar, and still performs those installations, but the company has found its niche with utility-grade installations. Sunbelt installed the pier/rack/panel systems at the largest solar site in the state of Missouri, which is located in Nixa. That installation of 33,000 panels generates about 9% of the town’s annual energy consumption, saving money and reducing the city’s carbon footprint.
More towns and larger corporations are investing in solar energy and that’s keeping Sunbelt busy. The company installed over 85,000 panels in a little over a year.
Sunbelt CEO Lee Schaefer says the new interest is because of money. “I think it’s the dollars. When you can put up a solar array and you can generate electricity for 50 years, and there aren’t a lot of bells and whistles, people are interested in that. Investors are interested in that. Utility companies are interested in that.”
Another reason is the ease of solar. “You don’t have to build a dam and stop a river to put it in, you don’t have to burn fossil fuels, the panels just produce electricity day after day,” says Schaefer. And it’s becoming less expensive. Schaefer says when the company started to think about going into solar, panels were around $1,100. Today those same panels are only $200.
In addition to residential, commercial, and utility-grade solar installations, Sunbelt also has several other divisions:
• A consulting division staffed with degreed chemists, geologists, and environmental scientists who work to keep facilities in compliance with EPA regulations;
• A remediation division that does hazardous waste cleanup at Superfund sites, underground tank removal, and spill response, such as is needed after tractor trailer accidents or facility chemical spills;
• An asbestos, mold, lead paint and radon division that inspects residential or commercial properties and provides quotes for remediation; and
• A drilling division, with capabilities of deep remediation wells, geothermal wells and monitoring well installation. Most of Sunbelt’s drilling is related to investigating contaminated sites and putting in systems to clean up contamination.
621 N. Prince Lane
Springfield, MO 65802
Leroy Schaefer, CEO
Karen Schaefer, President
Tom Underwood, Board Member
Year Founded: 1993
Number of Employees: 40
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