Pine River’s Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) has begun a process of expansion that could eventually lead to investment opportunities.
The original RREAL campus is located just outside of the city of Pine River on Highway 2, but the company will soon open a shop just south of Backus, visible from Highway 371.
“At the moment we have acquired 12 acres and a 4,000-square-foot building and we are going to run our solar design build program out of the new property. We’ve also started a new business. Historically our solar design build program or our solar contracting program have been part of RREAL, the nonprofit,” said Founding Director Jason Edens.
RREAL decided to purchase this property to split the company into two entities. One entity is a for-profit company called Real Solar Inc., which will sell solar electric and solar heat systems. The nonprofit RREAL will continue to offer renewable energy to low-income individuals.
“We’re trying to increase efficiency. Historically, our solar design build program has been part of our nonprofit. We’ve always had four programs at our nonprofit, so essentially what we’re doing is cleaving off one of these programs to create a self-standing, for-profit entity that will be our social enterprise,” Edens said.
Edens said this separation is intended to make it easier for RREAL to focus on its duties as a nonprofit and for Real Solar to focus on development and commercial sale of the product. As a result, each business should become more efficient.
“A lot of us historically have been swapping hats on a daily basis. Sometimes I’ll be working on behalf of our solar heat for low-income families program, and sometimes I’ll be working on behalf of our solar design/build program. Another motivation for splitting off the business is to reduce channel conflict and increase efficiency and focus a little more closely on the individual work,” Edens said.
Real Solar was incorporated starting Jan. 2 and is owned by RREAL. This means that Real Solar will be a source of income for RREAL.
One long-term goal for Real Solar is to eventually make Real Solar into a company partially owned by its employees. Edens said the company might also have investment opportunities for those outside of the company. These goals may not happen any time soon.
“We’re going to be eventually selling shares, and hopefully courting investors. Then another thing we’re hoping to do is have a portion of the ownership be employee owned,” Edens said.
Edens said Real Solar might employ a few more people. Operations at Real Solar will start soon, but the grand opening is expected in early spring.
Travis Grimler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook.