leave Energy Inc. is proud to offer renewable energy solutions – including photovoltaic and solar thermal as well as geothermal – to meet the needs of commercial, institutional and residential clients involved in new construction or retrofits of their existing properties, Senior Vice President Rob Christie says. Cleave Energy is a subsidiary of green developer and contractor Cleave Management Inc., which was established in 1984 by David and Nancy Cleave. The Cleaves followed in the footsteps of David’s father, Dale Cleave, who began his career in construction in the 1960s by installing tile drainage for farmers across Ontario. Cleave Management has engaged in projects ranging from commercial and institutional buildings, gas line installations, electrical grid installations and custom homes.
“About 10 or 12 years ago,” Christie estimates, “Cleave Management started focusing on green construction of various types, such as straw-bale construction, off-grid construction and eco-friendly septic systems. Cleave installed its first solar project in 2006 on an off-grid straw bale home that they had constructed. So, when the feed-in tariff [FIT] program came along, we were well positioned to expand into that arena.”
Ontario introduced a FIT program in 2009 to encourage green energy production through financial incentives. That year, Cleave Management delivered its first FIT solar project. “We brought in unique products that differentiated us from other installers, and we were one of the first companies installing solar systems under the feed-in tariff program for commercial rooftops,” Christie says.
After the FIT program was enacted in Ontario, Cleave Management experienced explosive growth based on its reputation for being a green building expert long before the trend was in vogue. Cleave Energy was spun off as its own company in 2008 to tackle Cleave’s ever-expanding workload. Today, Cleave Energy is one of the largest solar contractors in Ontario with more than 4 megawatts of energy installed to date.
“We haven’t seen any impact from the economic downturn other than a positive one,” Christie remarks. “Solar is a great area for people to invest in and get good returns. Twenty-year solar contracts are an extraordinary investment in this economic climate.”
Cleave Energy distinguishes itself from its competition through its ability to oversee a project from conception to completion, Christie says. The firm offers turnkey renewable solutions from consulting, design, FIT applications and financing options to engineering, installation, monitoring and maintenance.
“Primarily, we are a fully integrated company; we have our own electricians, engineers, designers and installers,” Christie explains. “We are always working with our suppliers to find the best product for the best value. We have a great relationship with our suppliers and will work with a lot of the same companies.”
Cleave Energy’s expertise in FIT and Micro-FIT project design and installation also set it apart, Christie says. “We have all of the tools in place to do the FIT program on a large scale,” he maintains. “We have the longevity and financial capacity to engage in large projects. We are also lucky to have people in house like Trevor Cleave and Bob Brown who are uniquely expert in how to move through the feed-in tariff process.
“A lot of our smaller competitors don’t have the capacity to do a large volume of work and would struggle to survive reductions in tariffs, and our larger competitors usually do not have installation experience in-house,” he continues. “If the FIT program were to end, those companies would not be around to service clients for the long haul. We will be here far into the future regardless of what happens to the program.”
To further strengthen its position in the marketplace, Cleave Energy has diversified into new business segments. In late summer 2011, it absorbed Geo Dynamics, a company that has installed more than 400 geothermal systems across Ontario. Now that Cleave Energy can add geothermal to its product and service offerings, “It gives us a strong presence in the marketplace and a great opportunity for continued growth,” Christie says.
In addition, the company recently became the Ontario distributor for the SolarBeam by Solartron Energy Systems of Nova Scotia. Used in commercial applications, SolarBeam can track sunlight with a large parabolic dish for solar hot water and photovoltaic electricity production. SolarBeam’s computer-controlled tracking system maximizes solar concentration equivalent to 350 suns. “We’re very excited about this new product because we think it’s a very cost-effective way to produce hot water using renewable energy,” Christie remarks.
“An important part of our expansion plan is our intent to be a Canadian leader in renewable energies, and we hope to develop a significant North American presence as we move forward,” Christie adds. “We will continue focusing on renewable energy and making this market ours.”