Ching Liu, cofounder of Inland Empire Renewable Energy regional center and executive vice president of SolarMax Technology recently spoke with EB5 Investment Report’s Aimee Rios about how they use EB5 funds to help residents with the cost of installing solar panels.
Inland Empire Renewable Energy was designated as a regional center by USCIS in 2011. Their first offering is SolarMax’s headquarters, a solar energy facility in downtown Riverside, California. The building was constucted during the World War II era and had been abandon for two decades before Liu saw the building’s potential as a perfect fit for SolarMax. She said, “When we first saw the property, we fell in love because the structure of the building was perfect for solar. It’s got the saw tooth roof with the angle facing south that gives you the maximum, ultimate generation of solar energy.”
IERE was established to help SolarMax further develop the market of solar technology. Their second offering is a little different than your typical EB5 project. They will utilize EB5 funds as small solar financing for residential clients, helping make it more affordable for homeowners to install solar panels. For example they will offer monthly payments plans at a low interest rate so instead of paying$20,000 to $30,000 for a solar system installation, the cost is converted into monthly payments $199 a month. “Generally speaking, your monthly payment to SolarMax will be a little smaller than what you would you otherwise would pay to the utility company.” Liu explained.
Currently, IERE has 30 investors for this offering. The investors are limited partners and have invested $15 million so far. Hundreds of direct and indirect jobs are forecasted to be created based and those jobs include installation, engineering, sales and marketing, maintence and operation. Liu used the RIMS II methodogly approved by USCIS to calculate the job creation.
IERE’s third offering is still in the works and is also incorporates a unique ultilization of EB5. Liu said they would like to franchise SolarMax and are in the process of developing 25 stores. Five stores have already been developed. “We were thinking that after the development of 25 stores, that we can master the program and develop a system, develop a program, accounting systems, HR…then we will be mature enough to develop somekind of franchising programs.”
SolarMax was founded in 2008, as a solar system integrator. It was the year the recession hit and despite the failing economy, the company grew rapidly from 2 employees in 2008 to 60 in 2009. However, the tightening of bank lending at the time, made it dificult to obtain bank loans and Liu saw EB5 as a less expensive, easy solution. Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge first introduced Liu to the program saying SolarMax was a perfect candidate to set up a regional center. The founders of SolarMax are the principles of IERE.