CHATSWORTH, Calif. – Asif Ansari, CEO of Sundam Solar Systems, is not your regular entrepreneur running a successful business installing solar panels on the roofs of homes and commercial buildings.
He is more than just that.
For starters, Ansari possesses a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Minnesota. After graduating in 1983, Ansari worked at Hughes Aircraft in their Satellite division for seven years.
In 1990, he started his own aerospace company called Omni Systems, based in El Segundo, Calif. Omni specialized in the design of both spacecraft and satellites. The Lunar Prospector, which discovered ice in the polar caps on the moon, was reportedly designed by his company. It was subsequently taken over by Elon Musk.
At about this same time, Ansari launched a company in his native Pakistan. Called Tesla Technologies, the company was based in Islamabad and began manufacturing compressed natural gas dispensers.
Due to a paucity of natural gas, Ansari shifted to manufacturing solar panels at this factory. Ansari admitted that he does not need to use these solar panels for his California operations because the local demand in Pakistan is so high that they all get consumed in Pakistan itself. This company is still operational.
Ever the restless entrepreneur, Ansari also launched a company in Dubai in 1992 to build satellite receivers for India, Pakistan and North Africa. The company is also still in operation today.
In 2002, Ansari shifted his focus to solar energy since one of his specialties in college was heat exchange and heat transfer. He joined a company called Energy Innovations in Pasadena.
In 2006, he launched a company called E-Solar, which was a solar thermal company that used steam to drive turbines which then generated electricity. The technology involved shining sunlight via thousands of small mirrors onto a tower containing water. The heat on the tower would convert the water to steam which would drive the turbines.
Launched with just four people and an initial capital of $1 million, the company saw rapid growth installing these thermal plants in Lancaster, Calif., and in the deserts of Rajasthan. By 2018, his company was being valued at $1.6 billion.
And then came the big mortgage meltdown in late 2018. Ansari sold his company to General Electric for an undisclosed sum.
SOLAR PANELS GET POPULAR
By this time, solar panels were starting to get increasingly popular. Prices started to drop and the panels became easier to install on rooftops of homes.
Ansari was also getting tired of flying to Dubai almost 29 times a year where he had also launched yet another company called Kinetics.
Observing the rapid growth of the solar panel business in western USA, Ansari, who resides in the San Fernando Valley, reached out to his old colleague, Syed Khalil, and the two decided to launch a solar panel installation business in the vicinity of their homes.
The new business, Sundam Solar, was launched in 2016 in the city of Chatsworth with Ansari as the CEO. “With all the government incentives being offered, it makes a great deal of economic sense to have solar panels installed on your roof,” Ansari told India-West. “And furthermore, following the disastrous fires in California last year, both Southern California Edison and PG&E (in Northern California) are poised to impose a rate increase of almost 20% to help recover their losses,” Ansari added.
“Now, more than ever, the time is right to consider installing solar panels on your roofs,” Ansari emphasized. “And it should definitely be done before the federal tax rebate, of 30% of the cost, runs out,” Ansari said.
“Our company has already installed panels totaling $18 million during the last three years, mostly in Southern California. We have gained valuable knowledge and experience about this business,” Ansari stated.
DETAILED RATE ANALYSIS
“Before taking on a project, Sundam will do a detailed financial analysis of your home or commercial building. We will study the roof area, available sunlight, and also do a rate analysis of your electric bill,” he told India-West. “Most homes in California are subject to a three-tier rate of billing by the utility companies. At tier 1, both SCE and PG&E are cheaper. However, for tiers 2 and 3, solar energy will definitely be more competitive,” Ansari explained.
“Sundam will analyze your specific home and present their optimal recommendation.” Ansari estimated that for a typical three-bedroom home, they could install an entire system for around $20,000.
“After taking advantage of the federal tax incentive, the homeowners could be looking at just over three years to recover their entire capital cost. And then, not only have you dramatically reduced your electric bill, but you also now own the system which increases the value of your home,” Ansari pointed out. “It just makes a lot of economic sense,” he said. “And for those owning a commercial building, savings could be even greater,” Ansari added, “because the tax recapture is so significant.”
ALL PANELS MADE IN CHINA
So where does Sundam get their solar panels from?
Ansari explained that the largest manufacturers now are all based in China. Other major players in the market include L.G. and Samsung from South Korea and Panasonic of Japan.
What is ironical is that the machines that make the solar panels are all manufactured in Germany. “Since there is so much standardization, there is essentially very little difference in the panels of various companies,” Ansari explained. “They all offer 25-year warranties so the reputation of the company could become one deciding factor,” he explained.
And how do solar panels generate electricity?
“There are photovoltaic cells in the panels which convert the heat from sunlight to D.C. current. Each panel has an inverter attached to it which converts the D.C. to regular 110 volts A.C. current,” Ansari explained.
“Our solar system will be linked in with your current provider. On cloudy days your home will use power from your local provider. On sunny days your home will use energy from your solar system, and if it is producing more than what you need, it will feed the excess energy back into the main power grid, and you will earn credit on your electric bill,” he stated.
“In the event of a power outage, your solar system can continue to power the building if there is bright sunlight. However, it will not be able to do anything at night,” he added further.
“The solution would be to add a ‘Battery Bank’ which would be set up to store the excess electrical energy via an electrolyte process,” Ansari said. “Companies that make these batteries are Tesla and the more commonly used ones are by L.G.”
Sundam is able to undertake projects all over California and also in Arizona and Texas, Ansari stated. “Most of the time we send out our own crew to install the system,” he added.
Readers interested in obtaining an analysis and a quote to have a solar system installed (residential or commercial) can call Sundam Solar at 844-786-3261.