Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal

Powering the Future: Solar Home Factory Building First-of-its-Kind Development in the Finger Lakes


Site plan rendering of Lake Tunnel Solar Village.

Some people are lucky enough to discover their passion at a young age.

Ryan Wallace is one of them.

When he was just 15 years old, he helped his uncle install solar panels at their family cabin in rural Grants, New Mexico.

“I was fascinated from the get-go that here we are in the middle of nowhere and we had energy and running water, and that never left me,” said Wallace. “Even as I went through a couple different career paths, I always enjoyed building and solar, and now I get to bring the two together.”

Today, Wallace’s company, the Solar Home Factory, is building the nation’s first solar modular home community in Geneva, New York, called Lake Tunnel Solar Village.

Solar power is energy from the sun that is converted into thermal or electrical energy. Solar technologies, such as solar panels, harness this energy to generate electricity and heat for homes and businesses. Solar is the most abundant renewable energy source in the world.


Villa being installed at Lake Tunnel Solar Village.

Recently, the Solar Home Factory installed the first of its flagship product at the site—the Villa—a 1,050-square-foot single-level, three-bedroom, two-bath home. There is also a 650-square-foot single-level townhome and a 1,000-square-foot two-story townhome. Prices range from $149,500 to $225,000.

Only four homes remain to be sold in the 20-home development, located within walking distance of Geneva’s vibrant downtown and the Seneca Lake waterfront.

Solar homes are ideal for people willing to trade space for quality and affordability. Two key target markets are retired people looking to downsize and millennials buying their first homes.

“It’s for anyone who wants a low maintenance home with no cost of energy,” Wallace said.

Geneva tops Albuquerque and Seattle for family business


Solar Home Factory CEO Ryan Wallace

Lake Tunnel Solar Village is run by Wallace’s wife, Tracey Wallace and his mom, Marita Wallace.

Ryan and Tracey, a Geneva native, married in 2012 at Norton Chapel at Keuka College in Penn Yan. Ryan was struck by the area’s quality of life, and the couple considered a move from their home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Ryan ran a solar system installation business called QwikSolar.

“This was right as downtown Geneva was just starting to bloom,” he said.

He and his wife made a spreadsheet ranking the area’s amenities, including schools, cost of land, business incentives, and livability.

“For me, the livability for Geneva was off the charts,” Wallace said. “It beat out Apex, North Carolina, Albuquerque, and Seattle, Washington.”

So Ryan and Tracey moved to Geneva to raise their family and grow their business.

After growing QwikSolar from $250,000 in annual revenue to well over $4 million, Wallace sold his share of the company in 2017 to start the Solar Home Factory. QwikSolar today operates out of Penn Yan.


Inside the Solar Home Factory

Technologically-advanced homes built in a factory

The Solar Home Factory’s pilot facility opened in June 2018, occupying 5,600 square feet at Geneva Industrial Park. The company owns 17 acres there, and Wallace anticipates rapid expansion as it secures more housing projects in the region.

The factory is able to build a home in just three weeks, and eventually, two as certain processes are streamlined. The homes can then be installed in two days.

That speed, combined with the quality and long-term energy benefits, is driving greater interest in solar homes.

“I tell customers, we’re making a sacrifice on living space in exchange for high quality construction and finishes, and no heating or electric bill,” Wallace said.

Solar Home Factory homes feature technologically-advanced materials and solutions, many of them locally-sourced from Ferrara Lumber in Seneca Falls and EPS Buildings in Clyde.

On the outside, they look almost futuristic, with colorful steel siding and solar rooftops. Inside, they are equipped with high-efficiency appliances, a smart-home energy monitor, and all flooring and fixtures, making the home readily available for occupancy.


Villa at Lake Tunnel Solar Village

“A lot of people confuse modular and manufactured homes,” Wallace added. “These are high quality, permanent homes on permanent foundations. I would put our construction up against the highest-end custom home builder. It’s just that we build them so they can be transported and installed remotely.”

The Solar Home Factory currently employs 14 people, including journeymen and apprentice carpenters and electricians from local unions.

“There’s a lot of craftsmanship, but because it is a factory environment, we can build with an efficient process that is difficult to do with on-site construction,” Wallace said.

Growing solar in the Finger Lakes

Wallace believes solar energy will increasingly be used to power homes and shape the future of housing.

“It is already becoming the standard in many states,” he noted. “California now mandates that all new homes be equipped with solar.”

Just as it’s difficult for young people to imagine a home before wiring and electricity, Wallace believes future generations will be amazed that homes were ever built without systems to convert their own energy.

In early 2016, the millionth solar system was installed in the U.S., a milestone that took 40 years to reach. The next million installations is forecasted to happen in the next two years.

Wallace and his family are working to capture part of that growth in the Finger Lakes, and make the region a national model for solar home communities.

He is quick to credit Lyons National Bank for backing his ambitious ventures.

“Everyone knows banks are risk-averse,” Wallace said, “but here we have a local bank who sees an opportunity to take a little bit of risk, potentially for a huge community benefit, and I think that’s fairly rare among banks.”

The City of Geneva and New York State also provided assistance for Lake Tunnel Solar Village.

While Wallace builds an innovative company and a first-of-its kind housing project, he is also proud to be making his own home in the Finger Lakes.

“Without the quality of life, incentives and all the other factors of business are secondary,” he said, while working at the Solar Village site. “I’m standing here looking at Seneca Lake right now, and I can’t imagine going back to New Mexico.”

Solar Home Factory and Lake Tunnel Solar Village

33 Forge Avenue (factory and offices)
68 Elizabeth Blackwell Street (Solar Village site)
Geneva, NY 14456

Krista Gleason is a contributor to the Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal. She is a freelance writer and owner of Gleason Writes in the beautiful Finger Lakes.

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