Brilliant Idea
Sharon Altman’s desire to ‘make a difference’ has shaped Aztec Solar Power into an energy powerhouse
by Phil Gianficaro

It was June 2001, a few weeks before  Sydney Altman’s death, when family members held a party for their ailing patriarch. Despite the fete being held in his honor, Altman used the moment to lavish praise upon his three ambitious, highly successful children. He also privately voiced concern to his youngest, Sharon, who then was the owner and president of a thriving yet demanding business on the Main Line.


“At the time I worked some days from 7 a.m. until 2 a.m.,” says Sharon Altman. “My father told me I needed to get out of that business because he could see it was physically unbearable. I knew he was right, and I promised him that I would get out.”


It took a while to find the perfect fit—seven years, in fact—but Altman did fulfill the promise she made to her father.


Proving that fate works in mysterious ways, some friends had informed Altman of an alternative-energy event they were attending in California that was to be hosted by former Vice President Al Gore, and this gave her the bright idea that would ultimately take her to the helm of one of the region’s foremost and fastest-growing alternative-energy firms: Wayne-based Aztec Solar Power LLC. Led by her family’s construction-rich heritage and her own love of the environment and of helping others, she saw the light—quite literally—and in 2008 founded her own solar-power company at her kitchen table in Gulph Mills.


“I went to solar school and learned all about alternative energy,” says Altman, now chief executive officer of Aztec Solar Power. “I learned how the solar panels worked, how to install them, the savings solar energy could lead to. It was all very exciting, because I’ve always enjoyed helping people and I thought this was a way to do it. … It’s only been two years [since the company’s inception], but it seems longer.”


Her stewardship has built Aztec Solar Power into a leader in residential and commercial solar applications. The company has grown into a regional powerhouse, in fact, keeping its headquarters in Wayne but also having multiple branches in other U.S. cities. Amid an economic recession that has left other companies struggling, Aztec Solar Power’s business has skyrocketed.


“We’ve been so successful so quickly,” Altman says. “The people in our company have been amazing; from the very beginning, when we were new and growing at such a rapid pace, our employees wanted to be part of it and did whatever they had to do to make us strong. … If my father were here he’d be so proud of how his daughter has grown in the Altman tradition of construction, building the best solar systems for the community—and growing jobs and doing something in the renewable industry for a healthier environment that’s less dependent on other sources of energy.


“Aztec is going sky high, to the sun and back,” she continues. “We are committed to providing residents and businesses with solar power to help them significantly reduce their electric costs and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels that pollute our environment. We’re also doing more commercial business with hospitals and schools and churches, and constructing solar farms.”


Making a Difference

Altman’s talent and success have placed her in a position to share her good fortune with others—including those less fortunate than her. For example, at her insistence the company installed a free solar-power system on the York County home of a military serviceman with a debilitating condition caused by injuries sustained in overseas combat; the solar system is helping him and his family control expenses by making utilities much more affordable for the long term.


Altman is the first to admit she hasn’t climbed to such heights alone, with tremendous help coming from Aztec Solar Power’s family of employees, not to mention her growing customer base.


“All we’ve wanted to do here is make a difference,” she says. “Everybody takes care of each other here, and we apply the same approach to how we treat our customers. … When people get a solar system from Aztec Solar Power, it’s beneficial on both sides. Sure, it helps our company grow, but it also helps people save money and [protects] the environment. Everybody wins.”


Through the combination of innovative technology and convenient financing options designed to make solar-power systems as affordable as possible, Aztec Solar Power can help customers reduce their monthly electrical-energy costs by as much as 60 percent per year over the next two decades. Altman had one of her company’s systems installed on her home over the summer, thereby enabling her to enjoy the benefits of solar power.


“This gives me a chance to know just how great our customers feel by saving money every month on electricity,” she says. “And then, in about five years or so, when the cost of the system is paid off, customers with solar systems really begin to save money. And when you add in the rebate from the government that people get when they install a solar system, it’s a terrific deal.”


“Terrific” is an apt description of the job Altman and her team have done in building Aztec Solar Power into an industry leader in such a short span of time—and people are taking notice. She recently received a Brava! Women Business Achievement Award from Philadelphia SmartCEO, on top of being named one of the greater Philadelphia area’s top “Superwomen” by Suburban Life.


Somewhere up there, Rosalyn and Sydney Altman are smiling down at their daughter who took her father’s advice to heart. And, much like the sun that has transformed Sharon Altman’s life and powered her business, his advice turned out to be brilliant.


Aztec Solar Power LLC

701 Lee Road, Suite 200, Wayne



Phil Gianficaro is an award-winning writer based in Doylestown.

Rob Hall is a freelance photographer based in Plumsteadville.