Solar industry booming in Florida

Tax credits, low prices helping spur job growth
Posted at 5:47 PM, Feb 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-07 17:47:04-05

A new study finds Florida is leading the nation in creating new jobs in solar energy. There is both hope, and some hurdles, facing the industry moving forward.   

The sun's shining bright high atop the First Housing building near downtown Tampa.  It's a thing of beauty for the company's CEO who is cashing in on huge savings. His utility bill has gone from $65,000 a year down to less than $3,000 since going solar.

"I tell people it's a little unfortunate that my office building has an energy bill that's about the same as my house," said Doug McCree, First Housing president and CEO.

Scott McIntyre's company designed and installed the more than 400 solar panels at First Housing,both on the roof and built onto carports. He's seeing the same surge in demand for solar that's happening across Florida and the nation, right here in Tampa Bay.  Low prices and generous federal incentives of up to 30 percent tax credits are driving demand.

"We've seen a quadrupling of our revenues and a quadrupling of our hiring of people.  In the state, employment's up 26 percent for the solar power industry," said McIntyre, CEO of Solar Energy Management.

There's been some fear, the Trump administration might do away with big tax credits for people who install solar panels. But McIntyre thinks they're starting to see the light on solar's big benefits. Now, he's hoping the state of Florida will come on board to help the industry grow even more.

"We have our oil fields in the sky. It's the sun!  hat's why they call us the sunshine state. We need to come out of the solar dark ages and starting using more solar power," McIntyre said.

He believes a unified energy policy supporting anyone who wants to go green would be a big step. It's a step that could help make Florida home to the entire solar industry, creating more good paying jobs, and using all that sun for more than just a good tan.