All Earth. Allterra

March 7, 2018

Allterra Solar is a familiar name in Santa Cruz. You’ve seen the branded vehicles, attended events they’ve sponsored, and possibly had them out to your house for a solar evaluation. All told - they have a real presence and some serious local brand recognition. That being said, have you ever really thought about what “Allterra” actually means? My ‘duh’ moment came during an interview with James Allen, founder and CEO, when he shared that Allterra simply meant “all earth”. All meaning “all” in English and “Terra” being Latin for “earth.” Turns out Allterra is actually a fitting name for their company – a business focusing on providing green solar energy.    

Allterra has been around since 2004 (nearly 15 years!). James and his brother, Nathaniel, launched as an environmental consulting company, and in 2009 they started the solar division.

“We were looking around and were blown away that there wasn’t more solar on rooftops. As environmental company, we felt a need to help accelerate its adoption in Santa Cruz. The fact that solar produces clean energy and saves people money made it an obvious area for our business to pivot into” — James Allen

Alltera Solar is one part green business and one part tech, and while they don’t develop any of their own technology they are responsible for the boots on the ground (or roof) integration of solar technology into the built environment.    

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Part of the company’s growth has come from their partnerships with local nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity. Allterra has been working with Habitat for years now but they have reinvigorated their connection through the ‘My House My Home’ initiative - a local housing program also backed by the City of Santa Cruz to help seniors stay in their homes through the construction of auxiliary dwelling units (ADUs or Granny Units). For more information about the My House, My Home program, check out the video below.

Establishing Allterra in the solar game was no easy thing and installing solar panels onto a home or business is a lot more complicated than people might think. According to James, “there are a lot of moving parts and essentially we’re building power plants and putting it on people’s roofs”. On a typical home, installation might take a day or two, but before the panels are connected there are 6-8 weeks of logistics occurring behind the scenes. Coordinating with PG&E, engineering design, permits, and all of the necessary parts have to be in place before arriving at the installation phase. And for Allterra there is actually a competitive edge to be a small local business. Not only do they get to live and work in a community that they love, but having local know-how and relationships with all of the players and partners involved in the solar process really provides them with an advantage. Having a relationship with local planning departments and inspectors and having a clear understanding of local permitting processes helps everything go a lot smoother, and a smooth install is a definite benefit to the consumer.

For James, Santa Cruz has been the perfect place to build his business, and it has been particularly exciting for him to see so many new businesses start and grow in Santa Cruz.

There was this period when new, young entrepreneurs started launching new businesses and that was just exciting to see. It is fun talking to other business owners that have gone through some of the same challenges that you've gone through, sharing ideas, sharing best practices, helping people avoid pitfalls. It has been a really fun time to be in Santa Cruz, to be running a business, and to be a part of it all. It is impressive seeing Santa Cruz continue to grow — James Allen

To learn more about Allterra Solar, visit their website

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