Two-thirds of people leaving prison are jobless one year after their release. About 67% are reconvicted within three years, according to Indiana-based Crossroads Solar.
The company said it wants to help break this cycle by employing only formerly incarcerated people, offering what it said is a pathway for people to reintegrate into the workforce.
The company connects with the local prison population through lessons provided by founders Patrick Regan, president, and Martin Whalen, vice president. They have been teaching as part of the Westville Prison Moreau College initiative for several years, where Regan said about one quarter of his employees are recruited.
Regan told pv magazine the Crossroads culture is founded on mutual respect, and employees are offered good pay and benefits.
Crossroads Solar receives no government assistance to run its operations; in fact, Regan said that the government often creates barriers for Crossroads. For example, the company tries to source as much of its components locally in the U.S., but that can prove difficult.
Regan said that because it’s virtually impossible to find module frames that are extruded domestically, he has to import frames from China. And those imports comes with a greater than 100% tariff.
“For the most part, you are going to import something from China and pay a tax for doing so,” Regan said. “A little government support on the other side might be nice.”
Regan said this type of business model can be replicated and isn’t exclusive to solar, however, it is not for the faint-hearted. He had to borrow a considerable amount of money to get started, and it took commitment to follow through. Bringing Crossroads to fruition took the help of friends and supporters and a dedication to quality from its employees, said Regan.
While it is costly to pay a fair wage, Regan said customers understand that Crossroads panels will be a bit higher in price. He said customers get a lot in return for a couple of cents extra per watt, and they recognize the social value behind a Crossroads panel.
It was also expensive and time consuming for Crossroads to produce panels that would withstand the rigors of certification testing, but a critical step for the company, said Regan.
Produced by Crossroads Solar are two models of monocrystalline panels, a 325 W, 60 cell module, and 380 W, 72 cell module. Both are made with PERC technology and are UL and IEC certified.
The smaller panel, the 325 series, is designed for residential rooftop installations and features a more compact design. The 380 has applications in community, commercial, and industrial applications, as well as residential and agricultural uses for when ample space is available.
The panels are made with G1 cells, which Crossroads said provides about 4% more surface are to capture sunlight over other cell designs. Cell efficiencies are in the 22.1% range, said Crossroads.
Both panel types come with a 25-year performance warranty, and 10-year product warranties.
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