Special to the Asbury Park Press
published 5:01am ET March 23,2022
HOLMDEL - Growing up in East Brunswick, Jason Kornfeld aspired to a job in corporate America, but ultimately found the work restrictive and unsatisfying.
Now, however, as co-owner of Holmdel-based solar business Green State Energy, he and fellow owners and best friends Chris Fegan and Malcolm Ogunkoya are enjoying the opportunity to flex their entrepreneurial muscle while helping New Jersey residents save money and transition to clean, renewable energy.
“I was raised to graduate school and get a secure job,” said Red Bank resident Kornfeld, 35, who worked for Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal after graduating from Stockton University in Galloway.
“However, while that job made my parents proud, I realized that it didn’t excite me,” he said. “I hated sitting behind a computer all day and wanted ‘to create’ and do something I was passionate about.”
In 2018, Kornfeld took a sales job working as a lead generator for a large, fast-paced solar company, where he met fellow lead generator Malcolm Ogunkoya, 33, an Atlantic Highlands resident. Success followed “and Malcolm and I quickly rose to the top of hundreds of peers in our department,” Kornfeld said.
Taking the next step in his career, Kornfeld left to oversee the entire inside sales division of a competitor solar company and immediately asked his longtime friend Chris Fegan, 35, a West Long Branch resident, to join his team.
Fegan loyally signed on, “and it became a crash course for the both of us in solar sales — e.g., qualifying homes, understanding finance options and how federal and state incentive programs worked, determining system sizes and output, and more,” Kornfeld said.
As Kornfeld and Fegan doubled the company’s sales and their responsibilities broadened, “we pulled Malcolm in to head up the lead generation team,” Kornfeld said. “Ultimately, however, the three of us decided that we could do it better ourselves and we were hungry for the challenge. We launched Green State Energy in June 2020 from the apartment Malcolm and I shared at the time, with Malcolm generating leads and Chris and I driving all over the state educating homeowners and helping them begin their solar journey.”
Nearly two years later and with office space in Holmdel and dozens of employees, Green State Energy is one of the highest-volume players in the state’s competitive, 400-company-strong solar energy industry.
“New Jersey is one of the few states that enable people to go solar at no cost,” Kornfeld said of the state’s approach to clean energy. “Because the state has a strong rebate program for residential solar systems, finance companies can lease these systems to homeowners without the heavy price tag (and are paid through the federal and state incentives available on behalf of the homeowner), so homeowners pay only for the energy they consume at a significantly discounted rate.” In New Jersey, which has some of the highest electricity rates in the nation, “solar systems can reduce electric bills by 30% to 50% through these lease programs,” Kornfeld said.
“New Jersey makes it easy because we get so much sunlight and our governor is very supportive of the clean energy movement, even pledging that 50% of the state’s electricity demand will be satisfied by renewable energy by 2030. Our area is the perfect mix of location and progressive thinking,” he said, “and as a result, residential solar installations in New Jersey are expected to double within the next four years.”
Serving customers throughout New Jersey and the northeast through their team and network of qualified partners, “we educate homeowners on all qualifying factors and review their solar options while providing our best advice and handling every aspect of their installation, from the initial consultation all the way through to when ‘system turn on’ is granted,” Kornfeld said. “We use triple-black solar panels for a clean and sleek appearance and also specialize in energy storage and other energy-efficient home improvements.”
While launching a new business during the pandemic presented unique challenges, Kornfeld said that misinformation is by far their largest obstacle.
“Many homeowners associate solar systems with the often-shady deals offered by third-party energy providers, while other homeowners don’t understand that solar systems aren’t an additional cost, but rather a vehicle that can help them save more than $25,000 over the life of a system,” he said. “The fact is, roof-mounted residential solar systems increase home values across the country, especially in the northeast.”
Homeowners reap the benefits
With a team of over 50 employees that includes Kornfeld’s father Ed, his brother-in-law Ryan, Fegan’s father John, and "chief of staff" Kristine McLachlan, the trio of owners see bright skies ahead.
“We’re installing five megawatts of solar each year — avoiding the need for nearly a quarter million tons of coal — and feel that everyone deserves the opportunity to save money with solar,” Kornfeld said. “For that reason, we often take on projects that other companies turn down because they’re too small, require too much prep work, or are too difficult. We’re proud of our positive reviews, our ‘A’ rating as an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau, and our popular referral program, which pays up to $1,000 for every referral that goes green.”
Only 5% of New Jersey homes are currently outfitted with solar technology, which Kornfeld and his partners see as a tremendous opportunity in the years ahead.
“We don’t consider these ‘sales,’ because once homeowners understand the total value, these concepts and savings sell themselves,” Kornfeld said. “We strive to have our customers producing their own clean energy within 12 weeks from our first consultation.”
“Looking ahead, we’d love to get to a point where the public is informed enough that they’re reaching out to us to qualify their home for a solar system, and we’re starting to see that now,” Kornfeld said.
“I love that I get to wake up every day, continue to build something special with my best friends, and sell a product that truly helps people and the environment,” Fegan said of their company and mission.
For Ogunkoya, the opportunity to deliver an outstanding customer experience is especially rewarding. “We treat homeowners as we would our own family members and review all potential solar options that meet their needs,” he said.
Kornfeld relishes the process most. “I love helping someone go solar and then watching them enjoy all of the benefits,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing to help people reduce their electricity bills, especially if they’re just starting out or are on a fixed income. People are increasingly receptive and our customers are all ages, from millennials to seniors. There’s no age limit on saving money.”
Green State Energy
Location: 146 Route 34, Holmdel
Owners: Jason Kornfeld, Chris Fegan and Malcolm Ogunkoya