John Mertes

John Mertes | Energy Specialist | Werner Electric

ST. CLOUD, MINN – John Mertes took a different kind of path to renewable energy. When he started out his career with Werner Electric as a truck driver in 2005, he may not have seen himself as a future Energy Specialist.

“I had a lot of windshield time. It was a lot of fun getting out on the road, I got to meet a lot of new people and new customers,” John remembers. 

But timing is everything. After six years on the road, John became interested in the company’s brand-new renewable energy division. Seeing opportunity, he went back to school in 2011 and earned a two-year energy technical specialist degree from St. Cloud Technical Community College.

Joining the Renewable Energy Department

After graduating, he joined the growing department helping Werner supply components and offer guidance to the fast-growing clean energy industry popping up in the state. What started as a team of one, has grown to nine people over the years. For the last eight years, the company has been focused on being a known energy solutions partner in the clean energy market.

John’s role as an Energy Specialist means he spends his day working with solar contractors and developers helping figure out the best solutions and products for the job. His team now supports solar and EV charging infrastructure, and more recently, taking the lead on introducing the contractor and developer communities to the opportunity of battery storage projects.

“Renewable energy is a big part of Werner’s business now. We’re the fastest growing department in the company. It puts us on the forefront against other distributors that aren’t working in this space. It’s just another solution we can provide and kind of be the full package to our customers,” says John. 

A typical day 

“On a typical day, you’ll find me fielding phone calls, helping our customers with product specification, helping them design projects, and then helping deliver what we designed. It could be anything from a small residential project to a large commercial site. We also get into off grid projects using battery storage or battery back-up,” he explains. 

Johns tells us he’s really enjoyed watching the solar industry grow during his time in Werner’s renewable energy division. 

“Even in the 6 years that I’ve been involved with the team, you’ve seen the solar industry grow up a lot. When I first started you weren’t seeing large projects, now they’re everywhere. It’s also been exciting to see the job opportunities come,” he tells us. “There’s a lot of new installers and new contractors trying to get into the clean energy field. I take a lot of pride in helping them get started. I try to give back by sharing the knowledge that’s been given to me,” John explains. 

Battery storage potential

Looking ahead to the future, John is most excited about the potential for battery storage. In fact, Minnesota is home to the largest solar plus storage project in the Midwest. Electric vehicles sales have helped to drive down the costs of lithium ion batteries, increasing their usage across the state, according to the 2019 Minnesota State Energy Factsheet. 

“I see battery storage being a big part of the solar industry. Finding a way to capture the energy and use it when demand for energy is lower. I foresee our team growing in that area. So that’s going to help expand Werner’s business,” John tells us.