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Steel City Solar finishes homeowner's solar system after previous company walked off the job

Steel City Solar Owner James Brown
Posted at 5:52 PM, Apr 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-20 12:08:37-04

FREMONT COUNTY — Earlier this month, our investigative team met with Jeff Lamborn at his Fremont County home after he spent two years trying to get his solar system installed and working.

The delayed project left him paying his normal utilities bills plus monthly loan payments for the solar system.

Jeff Lamborn
Jeff Lamborn talking with chief investigative reporter Eric Ross

Sopris Solar, the first company Lamborn signed the contract with walked off the job.

Blue Sky Solar, the second company contracted to come in and finish the work, also vanished---leaving Lamborn with a solar system that was essentially useless.

That's when James Brown, the owner of Steel City Solar watched our original report and decided to volunteer his time and materials to get the job done.

Timeline of events

December 2018: Lamborn hires Sopris Solar to install solar panels at his residence in Fremont County

October 2019: After multiple delays and project installment issues, Lamborn reaches out to the solar finance company for help

November 2019: Blue Sky Solar is contracted to finish the solar project

March 2021: News 5 Investigates meets with Lamborn at his home after learning the solar project was still not completed

March 24, 2021: News 5 Investigates reaches out to Blue Sky Solar via email to find out more about the project delays

March 26, 2021: After no response from Blue Sky Solar via email, News 5 Investigates called Blue Sky directly. A representative told us the project was on their radar and they are working to resolve it. KOAA News 5 requested a call back from a manager, but that did not occur.

March 29, 2021: News 5 Investigates followed up again with Blue Sky Solar via email to discuss Lamborn's situation

April 1, 2021: Our first investigative report airs into the delayed solar project

April 3, 2021: Nick Dorotik, one of the owners of Blue Sky Solar emails News 5 Investigates and contradicts information the company previously provided. Dorotik stated via email that the company was not going to proceed forward with installing Lamborn's solar system and even threatened to place a lien on Lamborn's property.

April 5, 2021: After Blue Sky Solar advised they were immediately going to stop work on Lamborn's system, News 5 Investigates contacted Lamborn with positive news that another local solar company had volunteered to finish the installation and get the solar system up and running.

April 12, 2021: News 5 re-visited with Lamborn at his home and confirmed his solar system is operational. The solar company that volunteered its time to finish the project went over repairs and work they had done. In our fair and balanced coverage, we reached back out to Blue Sky Solar to offer them an opportunity to address each of the issues that were brought to our attention with work that had been previously performed, but not completed.

April 13, 2021: After we did not receive a response from Blue Sky Solar to our previous email on April 12, we followed back up again for comment. To date, our interview request has not been granted.

Steel City Solar steps in to finish project:

"As a business owner, I see a lot of these out of town companies that do this to people and it just makes me angry," Brown said. "You're not only hurting the industry, but you're hurting people."

James Brown, Steel City Solar
James Brown, Steel City Solar Owner

Brown showed us the work his company did to get Lamborn's system up and running.

"Some of the physical anchors on the racking were not installed correctly," Brown said. "They were installed with the wrong hardware and so we had to replace those and do them correctly. Some of the clamps weren't installed to begin with so we had to replace (install) them. We had to fix all the placarding and safety labels that were installed incorrectly and out on the array, the plugs weren't even complete. We had to finish wiring up the solar panels themselves."

We offered Blue Sky Solar the opportunity to address each of these issues that were brought to our attention via an interview.

Instead of that interview request being granted, KOAA News 5 received a cease and desist letter from an attorney representing Blue Sky Solar.

"Please do not attempt to contact Blue Sky Solar and Roofing for any reason," attorney Joseph J. Lico stated.

KOAA's legal team advised Blue Sky Solar through a response to their attorney that we would still like an interview and that we were going to proceed forward with our coverage on this matter.

Project completion by Steel City Solar:

Lamborn's solar system required an inspection and paperwork needed to be filed with Black Hills Energy in order to get a meter installed and online.

We're happy to report that Black Hills Energy worked with us and Steel City Solar to expedite this process.

"They (Steel City Solar) worked like crazy to get this thing repaired and up and going and it's working now," Lamborn said. "I think if it hadn't been for you guys (KOAA-TV) airing what you did, I would still be waiting for something to happen. They (Steel City Solar) stepped right up and got it completed. I'm extremely happy."

Researching solar companies:

For homeowners interested in solar, be sure to do your research before doing business with any company.

It never hurts to get a couple of estimates and check references and complaints beforehand.

Also, utilities companies work directly with solar companies and checking with your local utilities office may be beneficial in getting information and guidance toward investing in solar.

Statement from Loanpal (finance company)

"We want every customer to have a fast and frictionless experience going solar," Julia Pyper with Loanpal said via email. "Loanpal continually strives to make going solar as simple and easy as possible for both customers and installers. While this situation is both regrettable and unique, we are pleased that a resolution is imminent."

News 5 also advised Loanpal that Blue Sky Solar had stated they were going to place a lien on Lamborn's property following our initial report.

We've also alerted the Fremont County Clerk's office and County Attorney of Blue Sky's possible attempt to place a fraudulent lien on Lamborn's home since he's not responsible for directly paying Blue Sky for the project.

"I will personally work with Blue Sky to ensure there is no lien put on Mr. Lamborn's property," Matthew Murray, chief marketing officer for Loanpal stated.

A Loanpal spokesperson told us that Blue Sky Solar is entitled to payment upon the solar project receiving "permission to operate" or PTO from local authorities.

Blue Sky failed to complete the final stages of install.

Loanpal says they will also be working with Lamborn to help cover the burden of paying monthly installments for a system that was not operational, until this month.

KOAA News 5 would like to thank Loanpal, Steel City Solar and Black Hills Energy for addressing this customer's issue and resolving it accordingly.

Do you have a story idea for News 5 Investigates or need our help? Email us: News5Investigates@KOAA.com