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  • Writer's pictureRickey Sipila

Solar Solar Hometown Focus Article

I have been working with solar technologies for a long time. It started in my early college days when I joined a club called the University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project. In this group, we used the power of the sun to drive a full-sized car by just putting solar modules on the roof of the vehicle. This was, to say the least, super cool. It really showed the power in sunlight that is beaming down on us every day.

I was lucky enough to be part of the team’s race crew that was able to race our car against other solar car teams from around the world in a grueling 1,800-milelong race across the outback desert in Australia. Long story short, we were in the top five cruiser teams in the world to finish the race.

The next step of my own solar journey was an internship at a company in the Twin Cities called TruNorth Solar. Here I worked for two years as a solar installer to learn the art of residential solar installation by one of the best solar companies in the cities. I immediately fell in love with rooftop solar. I always looked forward to transforming houses into integrated solar systems on a daily basis. At first, it was scary because, most of the time, I was hanging on a rope trying to keep my footing on a steep rooftop while building. But, after a while, I got used to it and became a master of the roof, knowing the ins and out of how to build a quality solar system that will last 30+ years.

Now, I have started my own solar installation business, Sisu Solar. I’m going back to my roots as a proud Finlander and trying to install solar in the Northland. I started this company to accelerate the growing trend of solar. The problem that I see on the Iron Range, as well as almost everywhere else in greater Minnesota, is that not many people know about solar and its financial benefits.

Most people know that solar is an environmentally friendly way to generate electricity. Which it most certainly is, as it has the potential to eliminate homeowners’ net carbon footprint. But what most don’t know is that it is one of the smartest financial investments for those who have the resources to buy it.

Solar panels can reduce your electricity bills to zero. Imagine how much money can be saved on a monthly basis just from that. Typical solar systems will pay back their initial starting costs by 10 years, leaving your future with 20+ years of zero cost electricity as long as your system stays working.

There’s a reason that the majority of big-name retail stores are rapidly installing panels on all of their big stores and warehouses. It’s a great investment. I personally like to think of it like this: A solar investment gives approximately the same return as an index fund, but with more certainty and less risk. Plus, the federal government has an incentive that can pay for 26 percent of your total solar purchase. These incentives make an already good deal great!

My company, Sisu Solar, was founded in late 2020. We have two locations, one in Britt and one in the Twin Cities. Sisu Solar is a full-service solar installation company. This means that we not only do installation, but also help our customers through the entire solar process. This includes designing systems, processing incentive paperwork, and also servicing systems down the road if issues arise.

Sisu Solar has already installed one system in Virginia, a beautiful solar system on a white roof on top of a blue-painted house. It truly was a house with Finnish pride. It was a blast installing it and I can guarantee it will be up and running for many decades. Any issues that come up in future, I back with a 15-year workmanship guarantee.

This system also has a monitoring feature that allows the homeowner to see exactly how much energy is being produced by the solar during each hour and compare it to how much energy the house is consuming. It also has the ability to monitor the power production of each individual solar panel on the roof. I have been tracking its production the last week since it has been installed and the solar panels generate more than twice the amount of electricity that the house actually uses. All the excess energy is sold to the utility for a profit.

I love conversing with people about solar energy. The most common questions I get asked are:

“Will solar panels work during the winter?” The answer is that solar panels will still produce electricity in the freezing cold winters as long as they are not completely covered in snow. Minnesota is a great spot for solar because solar panels actually work best in colder temperatures. It is excess heat that dramatically decreases their efficiency. As a result, Minnesota cold temperatures are ideal for solar panels. Plus today’s solar panels are made with snow-wicking glass that make snow slide off of them very easily.

In addition, Minnesota has a law called “net metering.” This law states that all electrical utility companies must purchase your excess solar production. Because of this, it does not matter when your energy is produced throughout the year. You will produce so much energy during the summertime that those excess energy credits given by your utility company will carry over into the winter, making your energy bills zero dollars every month.

“My electrical equipment is old. Is it compatible with solar?” Yes, most solar can be combined with older electrical systems. Your electrical boxes may need to be upgraded and you’ll get a new meter, but don’t let old equipment stop you from getting a quote.

“What if my roof is by trees and doesn’t get perfect sunlight?” You would be surprised how many houses that are surrounded by trees are still a good fit for solar. Prime hours of sunlight are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Therefore, you’ll need trees pretty close to your house to shade it during those hours. There’s no need to guess whether or not shading on your roof will be an issue. During my free solar consultations, I use a solar pathfinder to measure exactly how much shade will affect your solar panel’s performance.

If you or anyone you know is interested in solar, feel free to reach out for a free solar consultation. I will come to your house, look at your roof, attic space, and electrical boxes to give you a quote and financial analysis of a solar investment. Call me at 218-248-0212, email me at, or visit my website

Rickey Sipila is originally from Britt and now lives in St. Paul. He has an NABCEP associate’s degree, an OSHA certification, a major in industrial and systems engineering

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