A company to grow with — Mike Studholme’s first 10 years with mtvSolar

Mike Studholme’s rising career in the solar industry began, in his words, with one Thanksgiving conversation with his uncle. Mike was going to community college in Northern Virginia for a degree in business administration and his uncle, John Christensen, was working for Mountain View Solar. The company was putting up a windmill at the time, and the two talked over the project.

“Uncle JB” mentioned that Hagerstown Community College (Md.) had a renewable energy program, and Mike’s interest was hooked. John offered for his nephew to live with him, just a short distance from the college, while he completed the program. Mike said he hesitated because he wouldn’t be earning enough to pay his uncle rent. JB proposed a deal — Mike would cover his uncle’s electric bill in lieu of rent. They agreed, and Mike soon learned his first lesson in residential solar.

“He had 40 solar panels on his house. The electric bill was like $5 per month,” Mike recalled, laughing.

While he finished his degree, Mike interned with mtvSolar once a week, and then moved into a full-time internship in 2013, helping the company do whatever needed to be done. His first solar installation was a ground mount. Back at the Berkeley Springs office, he took care of the company’s recycling and entered data in the sales program. That’s where he learned about the tax credits that helped customers afford to solar to their homes and businesses.

In May of 2014, Mike started with the company full-time, taking phone calls, processing return authorizations for equipment replacements, helping with permitting and learning to do lead qualifications. All the while, Mike was helping with solar installations, and working toward one of the company’s first energy certifications – the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

“I took it and passed it the first time,” Mike said of the rigorous testing. “In order to take the test, you have to show your hours and level of involvement and study in the field.”

The certification was just one of the many thresholds Mike crossed on his journey to become mtvSolar’s Senior Solar PV and Battery Consultant. He went on to become the lead for the installation crew, which he led for several years, primarily in residential solar. Then mtvSolar took on remote power services for FAA lights on top of large power transmission structures, and Mike became foreman of that project.

“That’s the cool thing about solar – every day is different,” Mike said. “It felt like I was wearing five hats at a time.”

With so many aspects of the company’s technical work under his belt, Mike asked management if he might have an opportunity to join the sales team. His friends told him he had a talent for pitching projects, and Mike had already been working with the team at home shows, talking about mtvSolar’s capabilities and offerings.

In 2016, Mike stepped into sales at the company. He didn’t leave his other roles entirely, though.

“Some of the early jobs I sold, I also installed,” he said.

Solar installations weren’t so mainstream then, and panels were more expensive than they have become in today’s energy market. In the years since, Mike Studholme has seen access to solar energy equipment open up immensely.

“I think the adoption of solar is going to explode,” he predicts.  “Solar’s one of those things – once you have it, you’re never not going to have solar.”

Mike and Samantha Studholme with their children in front of their solar-powered home in West Virginia.

Mike’s own home solar generation system has grown along with his career and his family. Mike married his wife Samantha in May of 2018. Samantha works for the American Heart Association, and is a “social butterfly” who enjoys music and books, says Mike. The couple have a daughter Mila, and younger son Jack, who turned 10 months old just shy of the Studholme’s fifth wedding anniversary.  The couple celebrated their anniversary at the Nestled Inn in Bluemont – one of Mike’s solar clients.

Every month, Mike is reminded of the value of powering his family home with the sun.

“It helps me feel like I’m making an impact, but silently. I see it every month in the electric bill and in how many carbon pounds I’ve offset,” he said. “It’s just a great investment.”

Mike’s own deep knowledge of solar – through every step of the process – continues to grow as he enters his second decade with mtvSolar.

“It’s been such an awesome ride. Mike and Kelly have always been supportive of me growing in the company,” he said.

Over the years, Mike Studholme has come to understand what his customers are looking for, and what they value in going solar.

“The sentiment of taking ownership of your power needs instead of renting it monthly from the utility resonates well with people,” he said. Fixing or lowering a monthly electricity expense over many decades just adds up.

“People are adding a tangible asset at the same time they’re making a global impact on our carbon footprint,” Mike explained. “It’s an investment that people never regret making.”

Customer testimonial: Jan Weinberg

Jan Weinberg had been thinking about adding solar energy to her home for years, but decided to take the leap when new federal incentives were announced this year. When she started researching solar companies, it made sense to go with mtvSolar because she lives in Berkeley Springs, WV.

“I live in this community and I shop in this community,” Jan said. “I like a company that hires good local people.”

Jan also liked finding out that mtvSolar is purposefully inclusive in hiring.

Weinberg said everyone who came to install her 17.8 kW array was friendly, professional and conscientious.

“They were right on the ball and right on time,” she said.

“MTV Solar was incredible to work with. They explained things in a way I could understand, and they continually kept me informed as to their progress – they were always on schedule,” Jan said. “They were great communicators and very efficient.”

Henry Gill-Newton flipped the switch on for her array in February, and she saw her electricity bill drop immediately from $325 to $25. The system’s 45 Tesla modules grab full sun on her home and one side of her garage – more panels that she had initially planned. Her daughter encouraged Jan to use as much roof space as possible to take advantage of the power generation.

Jan said the lower electric bills are fantastic, but she was equally motivated to invest in solar because of her commitment to the environment.

“I think it’s our duty and our responsibility to do anything to help the environment, even in a small way,” Jan said.

She sees her investment in solar as a long-term gain, and one she hopes her children will benefit from.

“I’m old. I don’t do all the new technology or software. So why would I choose solar? I believe it’s a great investment – especially in the future by cutting the carbon footprint,” Jan said. “I highly recommend mtvSolar to any of my friends and family members.”

Remote work hinges on the power to stay connected

Working from home wasn’t born during COVID, but pandemic shutdowns and evolving workplaces have made remote work a new mainstream way of earning a living.

Waves of urban and suburban workers have spread out into more rural communities, where the cost of living is lower. More land choices, greater options for homesteading and dreams of self-sufficiency led people to buy homes and property outside of metropolitan areas. Because of remote work options, that no longer means giving up good-paying jobs or professional opportunities. It’s now normal to work on a business team that’s spread across several states, or even countries, and to hold meetings where no one is in the same room together. Adapting to this new work flow has happened successfully for millions of people across all industries. But this revolution hinges on two key factors – the availability of broadband internet and reliable electricity.

Many communities in rural states like West Virginia are pooling federal, state and local resources to expand broadband service to all residents – from families with school children to remote workers. Broadband internet is now considered to be an essential utility, much like electricity.

But some rural residents struggle when electric service fails, taking away the power source for their connection to remote work. Lost power means lost worktime, as some newly-rural workers are finding out. A multi-day outage, not uncommon in some small communities, has impacts on both home and work opportunities.

Solar energy is an excellent option for home power needs, but can be an even bigger game-changer in times of total power outages or grid failures. With a properly-designed system of solar PV panels and battery storage, a house and home office can continue to run essential equipment no matter what the power grid does. Big advances in battery storage options, along with energy management tools, mean mtvSolar customers can control their own power system. These systems — whether in a home or a small business — can be a wise investment for remote workers whose livelihood and new way of life are dependent on continuous broadband internet access, and the power to stay connected.  

If you’re interested in learning more about our expertise in designing a solar power and battery system for your home, business and remote working needs, read more here: https://mtvsolar.com/resource-center/all-about-batteries/ or contact us for a consultation.

Get in shape for summer – prep solar plans in winter to maximize energy payback all year

The sun shines year ‘round, so why does timing matter when it comes to designing and installing a solar energy system for your home or business? As Danny Chiotos, our Director of Product Delivery, explains, cold weather months are the best time to take steps towards adding solar to your home, farm or business. The goal, he said, is to be ready to generate electricity when the sun is shining brightest.

Danny Chiotos

Summer offers the most solar generation potential from your panels, giving you a chance to “overproduce” energy – generate more energy than your home, farm or business needs. 

In areas where homeowners can sell Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs), that extra energy can generate funds over and above the free energy you gain for your own use. But even in states that don’t offer that benefit, covering your own energy usage through solar generation translates to instant savings. In summer, our customers see their panels working at their top performance, building up the “energy bank” to offset lower production months.

Sizing a solar energy system, setting up financing, securing permits and installing the components doesn’t happen instantly. “The process is months long,” Danny explains. The ideal time to get in touch with mtvSolar is when winter has settled in. That will allow solar panels to be installed early in the year, and turned on to capture the sun as production capabilities start to rise.

“There are noticeable rises in production from March to September and October,” Danny said.

Production graphs show the monthly solar output of a 9.45-kilowatt roof-mount system in Jefferson County, WV.

As he explains, if a home solar energy system produces more than a customer’s electricity demand in a month, a customer has no energy costs (other than the fixed fee from the electric utility) and can have additional kilowatt hours that roll into the next month. In mild months like September, a home system could still be “building the bank” of excess energy, since there is generally lower energy demand – less need for air conditioning a home and only occasional days that require heat.  Even with lower solar energy production of fall, the system has still put the homeowner ahead.

Solar production is at its lowest rate in the winter and energy demand goes up. It’s a predictable cycle, and one that mtvSolar’s consultants build into their custom plans for each home, farm or business.

If solar energy is on your list of priorities for the year, now is the optimal time to get in touch with us. Tell us your energy goals, and we will design a system that can meet them. Taking a few steps now will make it possible to capture the full potential of the summer sun, and put it to work for you as the seasons unfold.