Erich Briehl considers all the miles of miles of empty, flat roofs baking under Yucatán’s constant sunshine.
These rooftops in Yucatán — where over 300 days a year are sunny, but where conventional energy costs are high — are crying out for solar panels. Maybe also a palapa bar, but mainly solar panels.
“The bottom line is, if you have a house here, and you have a roof here with nothing on it, why are you not doing solar?” Erich says.
This green-energy option saves money and helps the environment. And since 2016, Erich’s company, Bulldog Solar, has been by far the leading provider of solar-energy systems to expats.
How did he achieve this when so much competition swirling about? His first clients were a trial by fire: a pair of well-known bloggers with a large home in the Centro, and possibly the city’s most famous hangout for the international community, the sprawling Hennessy’s Irish Pub on the Paseo Montejo. If he had failed, the community would know about it. But both installations went swimmingly and the gregarious entrepreneur was off to a strong start.
Word spread quickly that there was a trustworthy company with a talented crew who could cut energy bills dramatically.
It’s not just that Canadian-born Erich is a native English speaker, although that helps him connect to customers with minimal Spanish skills. He’s been a high-profile resident of Mérida since 2009 when his Bulldog Group was mainly promoting local activities through his own video portal. Still, when offering a major project like solar-energy systems, he had to earn the trust of the expat community. And he quickly did.
In the past five-plus years, Bulldog Solar has earned consistent five-star reviews on Facebook (facebook.com/BulldogSolar) and customers heaped praise on Erich for his straightforward communication and integrity.
The idea to begin Bulldog Solar started in 2014 when he hired a local company to install a system on his house.
“We needed a way of getting our electric bill down. Solar made things a lot more manageable and comfortable,” Erich recalls. He had a short stint with that company. “I saw what business was like up close.”
And with the encouragement of friends, he branched off on his own — hiring a certified engineer and making sure he was always surrounded by experts, not just work-for-hire labor, Erich says.
“I wanted professionals running it, so I sought out professionals from UTM, a local university in the south. Jorge, who I hired first, is still with me to this day,” Erich says. “He has basically been a godsend and a very rare find as an engineer and also a good work companion. He has provided employees who are like-minded, who believe in doing a good job and delivering good service, being responsible for their work, and not letting a client down.”
Erich advises that anyone with a CFE bill over 2,000 pesos a month would benefit from investing in solar. “If you’re an air-conditioner-heavy user, absolutely you should get solar,” Erich advises.
One more recent large client was the eight-room boutique hotel Julamis in Santa Lucia. After 40 panels were installed in 2019, the investment has already paid for itself.
“They had a very significant bill in the 19,000 – 20,000 peso range (around US$1,000 every two months), and a one-time hit in the 30,000 pesos range,” Erich recalls. “Now their bills are a couple of hundred pesos, up to 1,000 pesos when the guests blast the air conditioning.”
After several customers asked for it, air conditioning installation and maintenance was recently added to Bulldog’s repertoire. A dirty air mini-split spreads mold and dust, and should be cleaned regularly.
Erich has a introductory offer for basic cleaning: 450 pesos per air conditioner unit up to 36,000 BTUs. That is roughly half what competitors charge.
Becoming the owner of a solar company was unexpected, yet happened organically.
Erich thinks back to when Bulldog Group, Erich’s original company, “was just something to do, to keep me busy. It has grown into something I didn’t think I was ever going to do. I think Bulldog Solar kind of found me.” ′
A version of this story appeared in Issue 5 of Yucatán Magazine as sponsored content.