A New Solar Plan
Roughly 1,000 Hawaii residents will receive affordable solar energy systems, thanks to a $27 million investment fund from Kina’ole Capital and Patagonia
Before they launched Kina’ole Capital, Blair Herbert and Andrew Yani lived in Los Angeles. There, they drove around, formulating business ideas and envisioning a future in which a drive around town meant taking a look at every solar system they installed together.
“That was a long time ago, I remember that,” says Yani, after Herbert shares the memory. “We were passing Staples Center or something.”
Here in Hawaii, those aspirations have become reality for the partners, who have installed more than 1,500 commercial and residential rooftop solar systems in the state.
‘From JV to Varsity’
With a recent $27 million investment aided largely by Mainland outdoor apparel company Patagonia, they plan to do much more.
They founded Kina’ole Capital in 2012, with a desire to provide residents and businesses with affordable, low-cost solar energy. Planned purchase agreements through the company, they say, enables an average customer to save more than 40 percent on their usual electric bill by purchasing energy directly from Kina’ole Capital.
The new $27 million fund will make use of state and federal tax credits, which will allow qualified residents to purchase solar energy systems. Currently, a rough estimate projects that the fund will be able to purchase 1,000 solar energy systems in the state. Kina’ole Capital also will work with all qualified solar-installation companies in Hawaii, which in turn, will create jobs.
The Patagonia investment began with a meeting at just the right time.
After meeting with other companies, a colleague introduced Herbert and Yani to Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario. It just seemed to click.
“It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever dealt with somebody, from a financial standpoint, where the returns were not the bottom line,” says Yani.
“We wanted to be at the fore-front of a clean-energy revolution in Hawaii, which currently imports more than 90 percent of the energy it consumes and has the highest electricity prices in the nation,” Patagonia director of corporate development Phil Graves says, explaining the decision to invest in Kina’ole Capital and an initiative like this in Hawaii. “This project directs our corporate tax dollars to residential solar, which is good for economic as well as environmental reasons.”
The fund, which will be used solely for Hawaii residents, includes a $13 million contribution from Patagonia. The partners also worked with Bank of Hawaii, pitching the concept directly to chairman, CEO and president Peter Ho.
The partnerships, they say, have been a great source of validation.
“We’ve grown every year, and obviously, an investment like this just adds to that and really takes us to the next level,” says Herbert. “It helps us go from the JV to varsity, so to speak.”
A ‘Capital’ Investment
It’s a symbiotic partnership, which they say really has been more like a second marriage. Ultimately, their goal extends beyond monetary gains. To see families saving money as a result of systems they have installed has meant a lot to the partners.
“I know to save a couple hundred dollars in my house would make a huge impact, even if it meant just one dinner a month more with the family,” says Herbert. “It’s huge.”
Herbert and Yani also work to remain accessible to clients. Have a question? Call, they say, or even walk through Kina’ole’s doors and ask to speak with them personally. They seek simply to be there for customers.
“We certainly want the public to understand that we feel power purchase agreements can do better for them,” says Yani, “and that you are entering into a very long contract, a very beneficial one for you, but just make sure there are people who are going to be there to help you, ’cause it can get complicated.”
Their background as founders of solar-installation company Bonterra Solar also has provided them with an up-close knowledge of the industry.
“We actually know how systems are built,” says Herbert. “So when we’re looking at a process that our contracting partners abide by, we’re making sure that they do so in a quality, workmanship manner, and that the homeowner is getting a quality product.”
“If we find out that they’re not playing by the rules, or they’re not treating customers properly, we’ll drop them from the program,” adds Yani. “We have a quality standard there.”
But what Herbert and Yani believe really makes their company unique is their deep local ties. Yani is related by marriage to the Judd family, who helped found Punahou School and whose roots in Hawaii date as far back as the mid-1800s.
And since Kina’ole Capital’s inception, the partners have worked with local investors.
“We did this with the help of Hawaii and Hawaii’s economy, and Hawaii’s companies and individuals,” says Yani. “If a company can be born and raised in Hawaii, Kina’ole was born and raised in Hawaii.
“We know who we serve.”
For more information on Kina’ole Capital Partners LLC, visit kinaolecapital.com.