Bob Willis first developed an interest in alternative energy sources while he was a student at the University of Oklahoma from 1979-1982.
"I did some wind energy research at OU," he said.
After earning a degree in aerospace engineering and later a master's in business administration, his career took a different route for more than two decades.
His career path changed two years ago when he purchased two alternative energy companies - Ensun and Sunsource - and merged them into a new company.
Willis is now president of Edmond-based Sunrise Alternative Energy, which designs and installs alternative-energy systems including wind, solar and geothermal.
"We like to think of ourselves as solution providers," Willis said. "We provide alternative-energy solutions."
Most of the company's work is residential - new construction and retrofits.
"For people who have a house and want to reduce their energy use, we can help with that," he said. "If they are building a house, we can help them reduce their energy needs."
Many of the customers are in rural areas around the state, but some customers are in urban areas.
"We will go to Rush Springs one day and to Gaillardia the next," he said. "We will have a small ranch house one day and a 10,000- square-foot house the next day."
Most of the customers are homeowners who must be willing to pay an upfront cost for an alternative-energy system. The initial cost is recovered by the homeowner because of lower costs for an energy- efficient system.
"It can take a while to pay it back," Willis said.
Tax breaks are available and additional alternative-energy incentives are proposed on the federal and state levels.
The process starts with an evaluation of the home by Willis and Sunrise Alternative Energy's eight employees.
Solar electric, or photovoltaic technologies, convert the sun's heat into electricity for applications including homes, businesses, remote lighting, signs and security gates. …