FLS Energy was founded in Asheville, NC in 2006 when the three original founders' children were all attending the same small school. As Dale Freudenberger, Hardy LeGwin and Michael Shore got to know each other, they found that they shared the same values and a desire to create a better world in which their children could live. Coming from diverse careers in construction, building design and environment activism, the three started FLS Energy as a small residential solar company. As often occurs, life happened when they were busy making plans. They stumbled across an opportunity to build the largest rooftop solar thermal system in the country. Never to back down from a challenge, the three managed to design and build the system atop the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, NC – the first Platinum LEED Hotel in the world.
The Proximity Hotel project thrust FLS Energy onto the national stage and soon the idea of being a residential solar company went to the wayside. We decided to reinvent ourselves yet again into a company focused solely on building large-scale solar energy projects that we would own and operate. Now, we just had to figure out how to make that happen.
Convincing global financial institutions to take a chance on a small renewable energy company attempting one of the most complicated financial models in existence, coupled with virtually no track record, is no easy task. In fact, it does not happen. The answer was to look to the community in which FLS lives and feels such a strong connection. We turned to local community banks, credit unions, and groups like Natural Capital Investment Fund (The Conservation Fund) for help. By finding financial groups with shared goals of creating sustainable communities and a cleaner world, FLS Energy was able to develop an ownership model and scale of renewable energy project development thought impossible just a few short years ago. “Without these financial groups taking a chance on our company and the industry as a whole, companies like FLS Energy would not exist today,” says Dale Freudenberger, CEO of FLS Energy.
FLS Energy now owns and operates a portfolio of over 50 Megawatts of solar energy projects. In 2014, through partnerships such as that with Self Help Credit Union, FLS Energy will construct an estimated 70 megawatts (350 acres) of utility scale solar energy projects throughout North Carolina. “All of our employees share a deep commitment to the environment and their community and view their jobs as a way to ensure that future generations will have an earth in better shape than we found it,” says Freudenberger.
Our team is very proud of what we have accomplished and will accomplish in the coming years; however, that is not what is most important to the company. Our people and community are what we value the most. We have one word that has stayed constant through the years of challenge and growth and that word is culture. A balance of work, family, and community has always been the foundation of our company. FLS Energy matches dollar for dollar donations made by our employees to community aid organizations as well as offering paid time off for employees to volunteer for the organizations of their choice. We organize quarterly company volunteer activities where we go together to help various groups and causes within our community.
Community based financial institutions, such as Self Help Credit Union, are the lifeblood of a vibrant and thriving community and we will always be in their debt for taking a chance on our little company.