Micronesia Renewable Energy Inc.
By Manuel Cruz
Jeffrey Voacolo first came to Guam as a Navy Seabee in 1982 before moving on to Okinawa and Yokosuka, Japan. The 53-year-old entrepreneur is originally from New Jersey. After nine years in the Navy, Voacolo left his rank as a Petty Officer 2nd Class to help his mother adjust with the passing of his father.
“I really liked the Seabees. I was going to make it a career, and I almost did. At that time, if you got out, you had a year to get back in. So I figured I’d get out and help my mom adjust for a year before I re-enlisted. But once I got a taste of the civilian life, I didn’t want to go back,” Voacolo said.
“I was an electrician and so were my brothers, so, of course, I went right into the union for five or six years. I was running work as a foreman for some pretty big projects and decided to keep my ticket but start my own company,” he said.
Voacolo’s company, Voacolo Electric Inc., grew to be the sixth largest electrical and renewable energy company in New Jersey under his and his wife, Tracy’s, management.
“We were doing large projects like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, large office buildings, military contracts and 37 schools. New Jersey went through a very quick 10-year school build-out because the existing schools were reaching 50 to 60 years of age,” he said.
For 18 years, the Voacolos operated Voacolo Electric until it was purchased by WPCS International Inc. After the purchase, they continued to manage the company in Trenton, N.J., for three years before being asked to operate three divisions in Australia and one in China.
Voacolo and his wife frequented Guam during their time in Australia — and also through his involvement in the Pacific Power Association — and decided that they would one day settle here. Two years ago, they resigned from WPCS and called Guam home. Now, the Voacolos own and operate Micronesia Renewable Energy Inc.
“I have been interested in solar energy for a very long time. In New Jersey, I lived down the street from Bell Laboratories in Lawrenceville, N.J., where they built the first solar panel, which is still hanging on a telephone pole since 1954,” Voacolo said.
He said it was easy for him to become an entrepreneur having worked from a very young age.
“I’ve been working all my life. At the age of 6, I started working with my father, who was a mechanical engineer but also ran a steel fabricating company. At 8 years old, I was a better welder than my father, and he was a certified welder,” he said.
Voacolo said, “I always had that work ethic from my father, and I think I developed discipline in the military. I hear people say, ‘I can’t work from home because I’ll end up watching TV all day.’ I don’t have that problem. If you put a desk in front of me, I can work from anywhere. I’m very disciplined and very focused.”
In his spare time, the father of four is a private pilot and said he hopes to take to the skies once again. He said, “I love to fly. My and Tracy’s first date was me taking her for a ride. But I haven’t been up in the air for over two years now because I’ve been trying to get the business up and running.”
Micronesia Renewable Energy has partnered with Sunnova, a solar service provider, to make solar energy more accessible and affordable to private homeowners.
“Going to the average homeowner and saying, ‘Go green. Get off the grid. Utility rates continue to rise. Hedge against the rise in energy cost,’ but [they] need $40,000 to do that is a very difficult sell.
“Sunnova gave us access to capital to put solar energy on residential houses for free. We offer them a lower kilowatt per hour rate than the utility does, and then it’s just monthly payments. We design, install, insure and maintain it for the whole term. This gives everybody the opportunity to go green and save money,” Voacolo said.
When asked if he planned to stay on Guam permanently, Voacolo said, “My wife and I love Guam; we hate the snow. We decided to make Guam our home, and we’re here to stay.”