A conversation with Kyle MacVean
MREA talked in May 2016 with Kyle MacVean, co-owner of Harvest Solar (with Brad Van Wert) about his surprising introduction to the solar business and what it’s like to be a solar installer in Montana.
How did you get into the solar business?
I got into solar eating pancakes at four o’clock in the morning in Rapelje, Montana, in the middle of a 24 hour bike race. Seriously. It was 2007, and at that diner in Rapelje I met a guy, Rob Carlson, who at the time was working for [Bozeman solar firm] Independent Power Systems. I had never given much thought to solar, but the way he described it I was intrigued. I have a construction background, and I was drawn to the technical, hands-on aspect of solar installation. It really was like a lightbulb going off in my head, and it had a ripple effect in my life. Soon I managed to get a temporary job with Independent Power Systems, which turned into a full time job, and eventually I was their lead installer.
Tell me about starting Harvest Solar.
Brad and I had been colleagues at IPS, and we thought we’d make good business partners because I’m very technical and good at working with my hands, and Brad is great at marketing and designing projects. We launched Harvest Solar in January 2012, and four years later things are going great. In addition to Brad and me, we now have two full-time employees. We installed close to 300 kilowatts of solar last year, and it looks like we’re going to far surpass that this year. The future looks bright.
What are your favorite things about working in the solar business in Montana?
First of all, my customers. I love being able to take a project from conception to completion. You start off sitting with someone at their kitchen table, not knowing each other, and by the end of the project you’re standing in front of the inverter ready to turn it on, as friends. That’s really cool. Another thing, installing in Montana, especially off grid, I get exposed to some wild, crazy, and beautiful places that I never would have the chance to see otherwise. And finally, installing in Montana keeps us on our toes because we see so many variables here that just don’t exist in other places, like the crazy swings in temperature. It’s always exciting doing installations in the fall, winter and spring, keeping our crew safe on a roof.
Why are you supporting MREA as a Penny Per Watt Champion?
I really appreciate that we have an organization here in the state that’s keeping its finger on the pulse of policy change, and sending us up-to-date information about policy developments and training opportunities. That allows me to focus on growing my business, knowing that MREA has my back.