Cale Garamendi of Sandbar Solar & Electric: “There are lots of innovations being made in the roofing space”

Some of the most promising and innovative trends and techniques of homebuilding at the moment relate to energy consumption, specifically to solar and storage. The combination of the two provides homeowners with complete energy resiliency so they can power their homes through outages, such as during storms, strong winds, or, as we’ve seen here in […]

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Some of the most promising and innovative trends and techniques of homebuilding at the moment relate to energy consumption, specifically to solar and storage. The combination of the two provides homeowners with complete energy resiliency so they can power their homes through outages, such as during storms, strong winds, or, as we’ve seen here in California, during the wildfire season when utility companies deliberately shut down people’s power in an effort to mitigate wildfire risk.

As a part of our series about “Homes Of The Future”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cale Garamendi.

Cale Garamendi is a project development manager at Sandbar Solar & Electric. He has 14 years of experience in the solar industry. Cale earned a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.B.A. from San Francisco State University.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I studied International Area Studies in South America and worked on farming and housing development projects, and I really enjoyed doing that. I realized I was wanting to get into business, but I wanted to do something that was somewhat philanthropic and solution-based. One day I was at a college sporting event where I ended up sitting next to the CEO of a solar company, which got me an interview with his Chicago-based company — so, I decided to try out the solar industry. This was 14 years ago now. Once I dived into the industry, I loved it! I got into commercial project development right away, focusing on business development and sales. It didn’t relate much to my education, but I enjoyed the exciting, ever-changing and fast pace of the industry. This exposure to the business world led me to enroll in night school to get my MBA.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Our company’s headquarters became completely energy-independent in 2019, meaning it no longer relied on power from the utility grid, which was pretty revolutionary for us as we were the first company in our area to do so. Our 11,500 square foot facility runs solely off sunshine, battery storage, and, on occasion a low emission backup generator. Solar panels supply 95% of our building’s electricity needs. When the sun is out, our building is powered entirely by solar which then feeds the batteries enough electricity to power the building throughout the night and majority of the next day. The transformation of our building into a microgrid that produces its own energy was inspirational to me and changed my understanding of and interest in energy storage.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

A tipping point in my career was probably when I was about a year into the solar industry. I realized just how important it is to have strong technical knowledge when you’re selling solar to customers. When you’re well-informed about your product, you’re able to address customer’s objections more intelligently. The more time I spent educating myself about this industry and developing an analytical approach to business development, sales became much easier for me. My word of advice to other salespeople is to know your craft. Be the expert. Take the time to educate yourself on your product. Put effort into ongoing training. This helps build trust among potential customers. It’s not enough to simply be charming.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m very grateful for our company President, Scott Laskey. He’s opened up an opportunity for me to advance my career beyond just sales. Within Sandbar Solar & Electric, I’m able to find and act on opportunities that lead and drive the business vision forward. I have taken on an important leadership role in the company and was given the opportunity to invest in Sandbar. I am now a minority owner in the company.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I’d say Cormac Mccarthy, The Border Trilogy set of books, have always resonated with me. The wise, unassuming people in life can sometimes show up unexpectedly from nowhere and provide massive insights that can completely change your path. These books have taught me the importance of being open to new views and opinions from people of all walks of life. You’ll be surprised by how much you can learn from others if you have an open mind.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“An open mind leaves a chance for someone to drop a worthwhile thought in it. “ — Mark Twain
This quote resonates me for the reasons shared in the previous answer.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Homebuilding in the US has grown tremendously. We’d love to hear about some of the new trends and techniques that are being used to build the homes of the future.

Some of the most promising and innovative trends and techniques of homebuilding at the moment relate to energy consumption, specifically to solar and storage. The combination of the two provides homeowners with complete energy resiliency so they can power their homes through outages, such as during storms, strong winds, or, as we’ve seen here in California, during the wildfire season when utility companies deliberately shut down people’s power in an effort to mitigate wildfire risk.

Can you share with us a few of the methods that are being used to make homes more sustainable and more water and energy efficient?

With regards to sustainability as it relates to solar and battery storage, we’re being more thoughtful about the need to tailor customers’ electrical loads during on-grid and off-grid settings by optimizing energy consumption via smart, load shedding devices. So, for example, when your power goes out and we’re dealing with a finite supply of power from the battery storage, the smart load shedding device will detect this and turn off appliances that have large electrical loads, such as your AC. You’re able to manage which appliances are turned on / off using an app. This is a very efficient way of managing your home’s energy. It also helps avoid too much in-rush current into the home which could overload your battery backup systems, causing the battery to stop working. We’re also integrating soft starter devices with battery backup systems, which are especially beneficial in homes that have well pumps. Well pumps tend to have large in-rush currents, and a soft starter device mitigates this in order to keep the well operating during an outage. This also prevents the battery backup from failing during power outages.

There is a lot of talk about Smart Homes. Can you tell our readers a bit about what that is, what that looks like, and how that might help people?

Smart homes are homes that have integrated devices that automate and optimize tasks normally handled by the homeowner, e.g. smart thermostats that automatically adjust the temperature in the home. With regards to solar, a simple internet connection forms the bridge of communication between your solar panels, your battery backup, and smart shedding device. You have an app that provides continuous monitoring and coverage, and with this information you can better fine tune and optimize your energy consumption.

Aside from Smart Homes, can you talk about other interesting tech innovations that are being incorporated into homes today?

There are lots of innovations being made in the roofing space. Cooling roofs, and certain roof materials, colors and reflectivity can make the home more energy efficient and fire/waterproof. However, as it relates to solar, it’s important to consider your roof’s compatibility with solar panels. Metal seam clamp style roofs help avoid the need to poke any holes in your roof when the solar panels are mounted on there.

Can you talk about innovations that are being made to make homes more pet friendly?

There are so many different smart home devices for pets, such as smart pet feeders, smart pet doors, smart water bowls, and smart pet toys to keep your pooch entertained for hours. Since animals are such an integral part of many people’s lives, I anticipate there will be countless new innovations for pets on the market within a year.

How about actual construction materials? Are there new trends in certain materials to address changes in the climate, fires, floods, and hurricanes?

Fire and waterproof roofs are becoming extremely popular for their safety and efficiency. In 2017, the NEC requires all solar panels to have solar module level rapid shutdown devices installed behind them. In the event of a fire, these devices help shut down the voltage of the solar panels to almost 0, which is good for fire safety. So, if firefighters are out trying to save your home, they can avoid getting electrically shocked.

For someone looking to invest in the real estate industry, are there exciting growth opportunities that you think people should look at more carefully?

Sustainable homes represent exciting growth opportunities. Look for homes that lend themselves to renewable energy, solar, and are built with fire-safety in mind. In these times of climate change, we have to be more and more environmentally conscious.

Let’s talk a bit about housing availability and affordable housing. Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

With homes being such valuable investments, it’s given rise to “nimbyism” (not in my backyard-ism). Some people are opposed to affordable housing because they think it will decrease the value of their home. But affordable housing will ultimately improve one’s community. The alternative would be to have homeless people living in your front yard, so which is worse? In the end, we have to take care of each other and become more compassionate, and not just so focused on maximizing our ROI. Welcome affordable housing into your community. Otherwise, if we resist this, we will be faced with even more homelessness which will burden everyone

Is there anything that home builders can do to further help address these problems?

Home builders should familiarize themselves with programs available for affordable housing settings, especially those that relate to renewable energy. Homes with solar and battery backup allow homeowner to decrease their energy bills, thus saving them a ton of money in the long run.

GRID Alternatives is an example of such program; it has been around since 2004. It makes solar installation accessible to low income families. It also provides people with the opportunity to learn about solar and become technically trained to install solar. PGE has a program called MASH designed to make solar more accessible to multi-family affordable housing. The SGIP equity program allocates resources to low income families.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to inspire a movement towards the rapid adoption of renewable energy. We need to think outside the old paradigm that solar and battery storage are too expensive. There are plenty of incentives available. Beyond that, you’re not only saving on your energy bills, you’re saving the environment, and also making your home more resilient and more sustainable. If you want to get rid of rising energy costs and be energy independent, solar and battery storage are for you. The combination of the two makes the electrical infrastructure of your home resilient, sustainable, and stable.

How can our readers follow you online?




This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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