The Big Payback - Page 2 of 4

The Big Payback

As the money from the stimulus package makes its way through the economy and the cost of solar photovoltaic technology becomes cheaper, Burger says the technology will eventually become a standard item in residential and commercial construction, such as large installations on flat roofs or structures that shade parking lots. He says he also expects more electrical contractors to follow Holston’s example by adding solar to their offerings.

“That you have electrical contractors like Erik and his company getting into the business is a very good sign because it shows that the construction and building trades, which have been rather conservative, are realizing the benefits and the opportunity in solar and other renewable technologies, and it becomes an important business line for them. It then becomes important for the public because this shows that this technology isn’t something exotic or esoteric. It’s very promising when somebody can look in the phone book or online and see there’s someone in their community who can do this stuff,” Burger says.

Solar Electric Inc. provides renewable energy solutions to clients to create clean electricity using photovoltaic systems while reducing energy consumption and saving money; the company also offers a full array of electrical contracting services. The solar contracting side of the business handles solar installations for residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial entities. Last year, the company grossed more than $2.5 million, 20% of which was from the solar side of the business.

While Holston hopes to move forward on some of the large-scale projects he’s been negotiating, he knows that his company’s profitability depends on others seeing the need for green.

One project, unfortunately shelved because of a gap in funding, involved installing a solar energy system on Advocate Trinity Hospital’s five-story northeast building in Chicago. The system was to be large enough to offset 100% of the building’s energy usage. “I’m personally looking at tax credits and exploring funding options, because Advocate Health Care is a good client of ours. So right now, my job is helping them find the money to do this.” Holston says.

Despite the sidetracked solar work, Holston projects that his business will gross $5 million this year, and that he’ll double the amount of green business he did from last year. To help him reach his goal, he’s establishing a “power purchase agreement” with a third-party lender that would allow him to install solar equipment on a commercial client’s building without charging the client up front. Working with his attorney and ShoreBank in Chicago, Holston is developing a template for the agreement, which would work like this: Commercial clients would sign up for a term of 10 to 20 years; during the term, the bank would be eligible for applicable federal tax credits for the purchase of the equipment. At the end of the term, clients would have the option of purchasing the equipment at a deep discount.