A Founder’s History
Mouli Vaidyanathan is the founder and president of SolarPod, an 11 year old Minnesota based solar company specializing in residential and commercial solar system design, engineering and installation. Mouli, pronounced Mau-Lee, immigrated to the United States in 1986 from Chennai India. He moved to Minnesota in 2008 upon being recruited by a major software company. Prior to that, he had spent the 11 years in Texas working for Texas Instruments (TI). He began at TI as a yield enhancement engineer in the semi-conductor division and then moved into management in the same department. Perhaps it was a coincidence that one of the main components in a photovoltaic cell (solar cell) is a semi-conductor. “Semi-conductors,” Mouli describes, “are the engines which drives solar cells.” However, when you also consider he wrote his undergraduate paper on solar while attending the College of Engineering at Guindy in 1985, a 225 year old University in Chennai, India, one begins to wonder if Mouli was always destined for the solar industry.
Why did he wait until 2009 to start a solar company? “I always wanted to be in solar, but couldn’t find a job in it. Fossil fuels were so cheap and the job market for solar was almost non-existent for most of my younger years.” But when he was let go from the very software company who recruited him to move his entire family to Minnesota only months after starting, he found himself in a tough spot. It was around the start of the 2008 recession when Mouli came to a sobering realization. “The only way I am going to find employment, is to create it myself.” He further noted that the alternative of, “sitting idle for 2 years would’ve ruined my resume.” After all, at 45 years old, he didn’t have the luxury to wait for the economy to recover and finally saw an emerging opportunity in the solar industry.
Installing Solar with No Holes on the Roof
In January of 2009, Mouli Engineering was incorporated and began installing conventional solar systems on residential roofs. During one of his first jobs, he found himself installing solar panels on a brand-new roof. Mouli recalled the light bulb moment, “We put 50 or more holes in the roof and my stomach churned and I said what we’re doing is nonsense.” By 2011 Mouli had engineered a better solution. He called it the SolarPod Crown® system, which is now known simply as Z-Rack. It is an installation method using a counterbalanced racking system that doesn’t put any holes in the roof.
In the early stages of product development, Mouli needed to test the proof-of-concept. Fortunately, he had a friend in Sunnyvale, California who had just retired from Intel and wanted a photovoltaic (PV) system on his home (built in 1947), but didn’t want the holes in the roof. His friend agreed to be the pilot project for this innovative endeavor. Mouli recalls telling him, “‘I have the concept and the patents, are you willing you be my guinea pig?’ The man looked at my design diagrams and said, ‘Let’s do it!’” The initial system was small, but the installation was a success and the client later expanded the size. This gave Mouli the needed confidence to fully vet the system, eventually investing in the UL listing as well as wind tunnel testing and seismic testing (required in California).
SolarPod is Born
In 2011, SolarPod became the official name of the company and has since built its reputation as not just the founder of a revolutionary solar technology that doesn’t put holes in pitched roofs, but as the gold standard in reliable solar engineering solutions given that 100% of SolarPod’s systems are still in full operation.
Since it’s founding, SolarPod has completed over 1000 installations in 40 states and two countries, including hundreds of residential homes, multiple school districts, religious institutions and commercial buildings. Some local commercial installations include The Hindu Temple of Minnesota located in Maple Grove, GearWest in Long Lake and Cornelia Elementary School in Edina. Mouli also helped advocate a change to a city ordinance allowing ground mounted solar panels for residential homes in Medina, Minnesota. At the time, the city was considering only allowing ground mounted panels for commercial and industrial zones, but after hearing Mouli’s insight along with a few residents, the ordinance was updated to be inclusive of many larger residential properties throughout Medina that could benefit from installing solar on their land. After all, ground mounted solar installations allow the customer to choose the ideal south facing orientation in the event their roof is too small or faces north.
Continuing to Lead by Innovation
Given the founder and president is a professional engineer, CEM and has a PhD in Philosophy, SolarPod’s DNA is rooted in solution-based innovation and is constantly pushing the boundaries of the solar industry’s status quo. The most recent example was in 2019 when Mouli developed a new patented ballast system for flat roofs. This flat roof system, called Z-Lite, uses less materials, weighs significantly less than conventional ballasted systems and offers airflow to help keep the building cooler. SolarPod also sells DIY kits through major retailers for those looking to save on installation costs while still having access to SolarPod’s revolutionary no hole solar systems.
Simply put, there are few, if any other independently owned companies in the solar space with the depth of knowledge, professional certifications, innovative spirit and long-term tried and true experience as SolarPod. Whether someone is looking for an off-grid battery backup solution for their cabin in northern Minnesota, a fully grid-tied large roof top commercial system in a major city or a ground mounted solar field for a non-profit religious institution, SolarPod has done it successfully and can do it for you too.
For more information on solar for your roof, call 612-388-3990 or check out www.MySolarPod.com.
Disclaimer: Chris Pederson is a representative of SolarPod