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About Us

The Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) was founded after Jason Edens & BJ Allen obtained solar panels destined for a landfill and installed them on the roof of their home in Bemidji to reduce their energy costs. That evolved into helping others in the rural Minnesota community break down the financial barriers to accessing the benefits of solar PV and solar thermal technologies. RREAL grew and also offered solar design-build services in central Minnesota and across the rest of the state from 2000 to 2013.

In 2014, the Design-Build program began operating as REAL Solar, a self-standing subsidiary of RREAL. Based out of a solar-powered office and installation headquarters along Hwy 371 near Backus, MN, we have designed and constructed over 3 megawatts of solar installations ranging through the residential, commercial, off-grid, utility, and government markets. We are comprised of a cohesive team of skilled builders & engineers that honor our humble, grass roots beginnings with a commitment to our mission of providing the highest value solar installations for every customer. We craft lasting solutions that meet individual needs and goals, so everyone can realize all of the benefits that solar power has to offer. Our team is guided by the following values;

Integrity - in the entire process from your initial inquiry with our non-commissioned sales staff to our construction crew handing over the keys of a newly installed system. 

Quality - in creating individually tailored designs and utilizing locally sourced equipment deployed by our licensed, certified, and experienced technicians. Using a whole team approach, REAL Solar provides customers with the highest value Solar PV systems, and the best return on investment.

Commitment - to invest in our clients, our team, the community, and everyone’s future. Many of us live with solar ourselves, and we work every day in our office that is heated and powered with solar!

REAL Solar continues to support RREAL as their preferred design-build contractor and partner for non-profit projects including Community Solar for Community Action, Solar for Schools, Skip the Grid, and Habitat for Humanity among many others. A portion of the independent project proceeds from REAL Solar go to support RREAL’s Solar Assistance Program for low-income families. 

Ben Butcher

Construction Manager & Co-Director

After over a decade as an ASE certified automotive technician, Ben got involved in the Energy Industry when he started, owned, and operated a home weatherization firm. In 2012, Ben accepted the position as RREAL's Construction Manager, and since, has led the installation of over 3,150,000 watts of DC power. Certified as a licensed building contractor and a NABCEP PV installation professional, Ben is ready and excited for your project!

Simon Eddy

Outside Sales & Project Management Support

Simon graduated from Michigan Technological University with a B.S. in Materials Science & Engineering. He was an intern for REAL Solar helping with solar PV sales and with 8th Fire Solar's manufacturing. As a student at MTU he was involved with the Alternative Energy Enterprise. Simon calls Duluth, MN home and frequents the Backus office to conduct site assessments, design, and contract solar PV projects. He spends his free time snowboarding, nordic skiing, biking, and enjoying the outdoors.

Anthony Fair

Installation Technician

Anthony began his journey at REAL Solar with an internship through the Leach Lake Tribal College in 2016.  Upon graduating in 2017 we were lucky to have him join the team as a full-time Solar Technician!  Having put his hands on nearly 2MW of panels since then, Anthony’s favorite aspect of the job is knowing that he’s making a difference for years to come!  When he gets a spare moment, Ant’s favorite pastimes include taking road trips, hanging out with his kids, and fishing.

Milek Kivi

Journeyman Electrician

1998 graduate of Wadena Tech with a diploma in construction, electricity, and industrial maintenance. Milek spends his free time fishing, hunting, and gardening. 

Joel Lindstrom

Master of Record

Joel is our Master of Record. He is a Master Electrician and has been part of our team since the beginning. Joel completes electrical designs for all of our projects and is a certified NABCEP PV installation professional.

Kevin Peters

Master Electrician

Kevin joined our team in the Summer of 2018. He lives in Bemidji, MN and is a licensed Master Electrician.

John Ruvelson

Solar Technical Sales

John Ruvelson brings his wide range of training and experience to our team. He has a background in residential construction, is certified as a MREA site assessor, and as a NABCEP Solar Technical Salesperson. He loves hands-on designing and installing of solar, has experience with battery systems, and has studied wind systems. He is working on completing his NABCEP certification. John is an environmentalist, lives in Duluth, loves canoeing, trail running, and the outdoors.

Cris Winch

Installation Technician

Cris is a graduate of Pine River-Backus High School and has been with our crew since 2016. He learned many of his construction skills working with his father as he grew up. Cris likes to spend his time fishing, cooking, and spending time outside!

The RREAL Staff & Board of Directors

Accounting, Office Management, and Organizational Development

We would not be where we are at today without the RREAL staff and their board of directors. Members of the RREAL team provide accounting services, office support, project development and organizational planning.

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Our Headquarters

Solar Powered Furnaces, and 40 kW of solar on site not only reduce the electric bills of families in the neighboring Leech Lake Reservation, but help us operate year-round in rural Backus, Minnesota. Along highway 371 between Brainerd & Bemidji, we offer the benefits of solar to anyone including local farmers, businesses, lake homes, hunting cabins, reservations, and anyone who wants realize the many benefits of solar.

Awards, Certifications, & Memberships​​

  • Licensed Minnesota Building & Electrical Contractor  #BC693420 & #EA693891

  • Licensed North Dakota Building & Electrical Contractor #55330

  • NABCEP Certified PV Installer PV-062420-031325

  • 2016 - 2019 Solar Power World - Top US Solar Contractor

  • 3.15 MW of Solar PV installed since 2014

  • A portion of proceeds from all installations go to support RREAL & their Solar Assistance Program

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REAL Solar, SBC. | 3963 8th St. SW, Backus, MN, 56435 | (218) 947-3779        

Contact us at  info@real-solar.com

© Copyright 2020 REAL Solar, SBC. All rights reserved.

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