Striking While the Sun is Hot

Alumnus is capitalizing on solar power's popularity

Ralph Parrott is very bullish on renewables. After spending more than a year marketing solar products and construction services in Texas and Louisiana as founder and president of Alternative Power Solutions, Parrott (BSCEM '91) is very optimistic that his company has the right niche at the right time and place.

"The sky is the limit for this particular market," he says via cell phone while on the move after visiting a Houston housing facility for the elderly where a rooftop solar panel will soon be installed. "I think I timed it well. This first year has not been easy, but the first year was just getting our name out there and getting people to know that there is solar available."

Parrott's company designs and installs residential and commercial solar systems for power generation, water and pool heating and pumping, attic fans, LED lighting systems, and energy audits.

For now, while the cost of solar technology is high compared to conventional technologies, and homeowners' associations are balking at the appearance of solar panels, Parrott says units of government are his best customers.

"I'm most optimistic about the fact that governmental entities are looking to reduce their energy consumption," he says. "The largest projects that we've got are government entities. They want to spur the economy and ease the pressure on utilities. If their consumption is reduced by just 1 percent, they can ease that pressure. They have the ability to make a huge impact."

For now, Parrott says, government agencies are more concerned about consumption reduction than saving money on their power bills.

"They aren't concerned with return on investment as much as business owners are. Here in Houston we have a very renewable-energy-minded mayor. It's about the city's carbon footprint, but he also knows that he can create jobs by doing these things."

Parrott says he is grateful to his Purdue CEM education for having trained him to think outside the box and analyze problems. "What Purdue does is help nurture that thought process that allows you to think of different ways to do it—to solve problems. A Purdue education teaches you to learn anything. I've worked in oil fields, sold pipeline services, and dealt with a lot of things."

Parrott recommends that CEM students and students in all engineering disciplines give renewables serious thought when considering their career options. "I'm a businessman and I'm doing this because I want to make money. I encourage people to look at alternative energy and renewable energy. There's an extreme shortage of quality, educated people."

A native of Lafayette, Ind., Parrott would like to expand his business enough to have a presence near his roots one day. But he isn't likely to stop there.

"I'd like to have a location in Indiana—wherever there's a location with sun and a local government."

-A.R.