Isaac Gamez is the Chief Operations Officer for Renova Energy. Matthew De La Torre is the Vice President of Engineering. Both identified one problem after another with a small portion of the solar installation process and decided to find a way to fix it. After years of design work, they have received an official patent for their conduit tile hook, which is now ready for launch throughout the solar and battery storage industry.
GPS Business Insider interviewed these two bright engineers for an insider’s look at how their innovation evolved and has become an important element of solar panel installation for the nation and beyond.
Tell me about how the design for this conduit tile hook came about.
Isaac: There was nothing available to installers at the time for conduit tile mounts — definitely nothing that was to our satisfaction. We wanted to keep conduits off the visible roofline and make them last.
Matt: Initially, the tools we were using were made of wood and stuck together with glue. It wasn’t a good-looking piece of material and it didn’t match the rest of our high-quality materials. We wanted something much more durable with a longer lifespan. And we wanted something that would attach better. The tile doesn’t need any kind of attachment or adhesive with this conduit. We also wanted something affordable because the cost of production rises fast. This conduit is great because it fits in the truck with the rest of the tools and we don’t have to do any modifications. It also looks better aesthetically and it’s way more functional.
Why is this type of conduit better for the desert environment?
Matt: Well, when was the last time you saw aluminum melt in the desert heat? The adhesive with the previous model wouldn’t withstand the heat on the roof. The wood also degrades and dries out quickly. It was less than five years before the wood conduits were falling apart.
Isaac: In order to maintain the wood conduits, the process is labor intensive and it doesn’t pencil out in the long run.
When did you two come up with this idea?
Isaac: We were at SPI (Solar Power International — it’s the largest solar expo in the U.S.). We were looking for a solution to this problem, but nobody had one, so we decided to make our own.
Matt: It was probably three years ago now.
What specific problems were you running into with the wood conduits?
Isaac: The wood conduits were a daily snag with installations, and they didn’t last.
Matt: When we install a system, we work hard to hide the conduit in the most aesthetically pleasing fashion. But by the time we’d finished the installation, you would still see these ugly wood blocks every ten feet, as required by code. Plus, it wasn’t going over well with the customer, especially when everything else about the installation looked so nice.
How successful has this new design of conduit been?
Isaac: It’s been 100% successful. We’ve even gotten other solar companies to use them.
Matt: Yeah, a 0% fail rate.
Has this conduit been more expensive to produce than the wood conduit?
Matt: It’s actually less expensive. For cost and time savings, the ROI is instant.
Isaac: Way cheaper.
Anything else you want to mention about your patented invention?
Isaac: There are a lot of solar engineers working in this industry now, so don’t be afraid to try something new. Design something new. Experiment to find solutions that work better. That’s the only way this industry will advance.
Matt: We take a lot of pride in functionality. That’s why we use products like SunPower and other high-quality materials, but aesthetics are just as important in the end result. Customers want a good-looking system on their home or business. We want something that’ll last and look good for decades. This solution is working great.
Renova Energy is an award-winning, employee-owned company with expertise installing solar and battery microgrids under the Mycrogrid® brand that will withstand harsh desert conditions and produce maximum savings. In 15 years of operation, they have installed nearly 8,000 solar systems and enjoy stellar ratings on Yelp and Solar Reviews. The Solar + Industry is evolving so quickly that Renova Energy is excited to constantly challenge material designs and installation processes to ensure the industry grows towards the ultimate goal of replacing utility generated electricity.