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Rochester Top 100: SED, located in Wayne County, aims to expand into battery storage

Rochester Business Journal
January 4, 2016

Sustainable Energy Developments Inc. started in 2002 with a business model focused primarily on serving New York’s wind energy market, at first with project development and resource measurement tools and then with wind turbines.

As the renewable energy industry has grown, so too has the Ontario, Wayne County, company’s service line, transitioning to more solar energy panel installations in residential, commercial and institutional markets.

SED partnered with the town of Williamson, Wayne County, in 2014 to help it become the first municipality in New York to use solar energy to power all of its town buildings. SED developed, designed and installed solar panels at the town’s landfill, which has been closed for years.

The project was supported in part by the $1 billion New York Sun initiative, which aims to scale-up the solar industry across the state. NY-Sun is administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The Williamson municipal project expanded to include residents in a mission called Solarize Williamson. SED is one of five installation partners involved, and 11 residents have contracted with SED alone to switch to solar energy.

“The town of Williamson is the best bullhorn we could have,” said George McConochie, chief operations officer at SED. “The size of their commitment speaks volumes. They set the trend and people learn from what they have done.”

The city of Rochester, where the majority of SED projects are located, followed Williamson’s lead with a similar campaign, as have several other area municipalities.

Municipalities are not the target market for growth in the New Year, though, McConochie said.

“In this region we feel small to medium-size businesses are an underserved market. It’s more difficult to assess their credit rating than it is a university or a town,” McConochie said. “So, that makes it more difficult for them to get financing. We feel they really could be helped by our projects. We are trying to find financing tools for them.”

Another 2015 Rochester Top 100 company, Upstate Door Inc., based in Warsaw, Wyoming County, recently had a solar system installed by SED.

The cost of the project is expected to be paid off in six to seven years, said Robert Fontaine, Upstate Door president. He decided to switch to solar to have a pre-defined, set rate for his power and a consistent cost he knew he could control each month.

He decided to partner with SED because the company is “small enough and big enough,” Fontaine said.

“SED is a small enough company to think through all the details. They are very hands-on and they gave us one main point of contact,” Fontaine said. “They are also big enough to work on the overall project needs, and they gave us customized solutions.”

SED, which has 30 employees, saw its revenue nearly triple in 2014, growing to $9.5 million from $3.4 million the previous year. That followed a nearly 25 percent decline in 2013, which was preceded by an 80 percent increase in 2012.

“Our project cycles are 18 months. We made a big investment in 2012 to push into the solar market, so there was a drain on cash flow as growth eats into cash,” McConochie said. “The same thing will go for 2015. We had big growth in 2014 that will eat cash. We expect 100 percent increase in growth for 2016.

“We take two steps forward and take one step back, but we feel we are going in exactly the right direction.”

The possibility that federal incentives may be sunsetting is one of the challenges SED faces as it looks to future growth. But the company is optimistic.

“Our experience indicates they will be extended before November of next year,” McConochie said, adding the company is also looking to create new products in the event the incentives end.

For SED, that is battery storage. The company has been in talks with the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, which supports the development of new partnerships through the New York Battery Energy & Storage Technology consortium.

“We’re currently reaching out to partners,” McConochie said. “2016 will bring our first battery storage project tied to our installation.”

The Rochester Top 100 program is presented by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. The 2016 Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 2. For more information, go to

Sustainable Energy Developments Inc.
Distributes renewable energy generation, including solar and wind projects.
Year founded: 2002
2015 ranking: 11
Top executive: Kevin Schulte, CEO
Current employment: 30
Headquarters: Ontario, Wayne County

1/4/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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