Mercury Solar morphing into clean-tech. giant on Long Island

Tucked behind the SunVet Mall in the last office front of a strip of offices on Broadway Avenue in Holbrook is the Long Island branch of Mercury Solar. From the outside the brick facade doesn’t look like much, but inside the office houses one of the fastest growing solar companies in the northeast.

Mercury Solar, with corporate headquarters in Port Chester, was founded in 2006. Since then the privately-held operation has expanded into four states with seven offices and 250 employees. And though the Holbrook location only opened in August, Mercury has spent the past two years establishing itself as a major player on the Long Island solar scene.

In June of 2009 the company purchased Kings Park-based solar contractor K-Star. Last April it completed a 255 panel, 51-kilowatt (kW) project on the Suffolk Transportation Service Headquarters in Bay Shore. This past November Mercury finished a 103-kW system atop the Estee Lauder storage facility in Melville, the second largest commercial solar system on Long Island.

One month later, at the Brentwood train station, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, then-Governor David Patterson, LIPA CEO Michael Hervey and a handful of dignitaries announced the groundbreaking of the Suffolk Solar Carport Project, a massive undertaking that could bring photovoltaic mounted carports to as many as seven parking lots in the county, the installation of which was contracted out to Mercury Solar.

“It’s 10 megawatts with the potential to grow to 17 megawatts,” Mercury President and co-founder Jared Haines said of the carports. “It’s the largest project in the state of New York.”

With the solar carports under way, and the company opening a satellite office in Commack to oversee the undertaking, Mercury’s diversity and reach on Long Island is now felt in three areas: residential, commercial and utility.

“Very few companies on the east coast are successful at doing all three,” Haines said. “It takes a lot of people to maintain three lines of business.”

It’s the size and diversity of a three-prong operation that has allowed Mercury to flourish. With the rise of clean technology in recent years (helped along by utility, state and federal incentives) an increase of solar contractors have sprung up in the region. Yet, with many of these new to the game like traditional electricians and small contractors, Mercury’s large-scale operation has kept them at the forefront of the clean-tech movement.

“It’s not easy to get into this business, you need a lot of capital,” Haines said. “For the traditional electrician cost of material is 20 percent of a project. Here cost is 80 percent.”

Having capital on its side has also allowed Mercury to grow through acquisition. In addition to purchasing K-Star, Mercury also acquired Philadelphia-based solar contractor Eos last February, thus expanding its operation to four states including also New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Here on Long Island, Haines estimated that the company has completed close to 100 projects dating back to as early as 2007. Recently the larger projects have been commercial, but Haines said the bulk of the work has been residential.

“Just about anyone can do it and we will walk them through it,” He said of going solar. “Right now the incentives are in place in all the markets we are in and they’re good enough to allow the business to grow.”

And grow, and grow, and grow.

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