Is Florida the Real “Sunshine State” for Solar Energy?
By Christina Brown Morrison
Located in Cape Canaveral, Clean Footprint is a solar development and finance company focused on utility, commercial and industrial-scale projects. Founded in 2011, they made the tough decision to abandon their efforts in Florida and shift their attention to New England, while remaining headquartered in Brevard County. At the time, project economics for solar were not feasible here, compared to other states with less regulation, preventing renewable energy adoption.
However, Clean Footprint remained committed to bringing services back home by participating in many campaigns, grassroots efforts and speaking engagements on the benefits of opening opportunities for solar in the state. In 2016, those efforts paid off with several factors, including favorable constitutional amendment results, creating new opportunities for energy choice in Florida once again.
Quite often, energy is one of the highest costs in a company’s budget, particularly with industrial and manufacturing businesses. Investment in solar enables a fixed cost of electricity for planning purposes. The revenue from savings can be reallocated for other capital or operating expenses. This enables expansion and growth, while hedging against inevitable cost increases from traditional energy sources.
“We are striving to bring about a clean energy economy. We also want to make it easy for Floridians,” said John Porter, Clean Footprint CEO. “Energy costs impact every aspect of our lives, therefore lower priced energy means a lower cost of living for everyone.”
The team at Clean Footprint envisions a world with abundant, affordable, renewable energy, which lowers the cost of transportation, food and shelter, transforming and uplifting the lives of the global population. That vision is becoming clear with changes in policy and the marketplace that are causing a decline in prices. According to a recent article in Popular Mechanics magazine,
“Unlike fossil fuels, which are commodity-based and carry the increasing costs of extraction and refinement, solar costs are based on the fixed capital cost of the equipment and those costs are going down,” said Easton, who is leading the Florida campaign. “We are optimistic about our latest efforts in Florida, which are now supported by faster return on investment than in previous years. When these systems are paid for, the cost of electricity is reduced to virtually zero.”
Now that solar energy is being produced at competitive rates, it is likely that the economics of solar will enable explosive growth in the industry. Solar energy jobs have outpaced the rest of the United States’ economy for the past decade. In fact, the industry recently expanded by 20 percent, now employing 209,000. Solar employment figures also compare favorably to coal and natural gas extraction, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Wes Morrison, Director of Sales and Marketing at Clean Footprint, shared, “Trends in growth are expected to continue this year, building significantly on the increasing interest in obtaining power from renewables. Not only did Google, Apple, Microsoft and other major companies make commitments to renewables in 2016, but also the corporate community formed an alliance designed to find more ways for corporations to buy renewable energy. We expect to see large and small companies identify more creative strategies to go green.”
Public awareness is an important factor, as well. Now that solar energy is more widely known as a safe, low-risk, high-return investment throughout the country, it is easier to secure financing for a solar system. Low-interest loans allow businesses to install a system for little money down, removing the high up-front costs of going solar. As financing options become more plentiful with a maturing industry, there will be less perceived risk in this investment for businesses to pursue ownership.
The Future is Bright forSolar Energy and Clean Footprint
When it comes to solar, it’s acceptable to use the cliché that the “future is bright.” Technology is improving the efficiency of solar panels, meaning fewer are needed to produce the same amount of power. Plus, with the extension of the 30 percent investment tax credit for solar, this continues to provide businesses with a corporate tax liability to invest in equipment and receive a credit on the value of the total system cost. This policy also includes a five-year accelerated depreciation on the system value, improving the return.
While society appreciates the environmental attributes of clean energy, businesses are now able to see the economic value of solar. Although solar is an abundant electricity source, it’s time to act, as local circuits will reach capacity and government incentives will dim. The Clean Footprint team is encouraged with the direction for renewable energy opportunities and already seeing success with their renewed sales efforts in the state. They’re committed to expanding the use of solar energy by diligently executing on all aspects of solar development, finance and ownership. ◆